Thursday, November 30, 2006

NCAA: Carolina and Ohio State, Thanks for the Show

By Dustin Hockensmith

So maybe I'm not going out on a limb when I say that Wednesday night's North Carolina-Ohio State game was a potential national championship game preview. But how about two such games (Florida vs. Kansas, Friday night) in the last six days? A case can be made for all four teams, as well as a UCLA team that I greatly underestimated, as being the best in the country. We saw a high-tempo affair between the Tar Heels and Greg Oden-less Buckeyes, one that UNC won, 98-89, with an impressive second half.

Tyler Hansbrough turned in a 21 point, 14 rebound double-double, but we also saw Carolina's talented freshmen play as well as they have all season. Speedy point guard Ty Lawson had five assists and no turnovers, Wayne Ellington scored 19 points on his 19th birthday and the lengthy Brandan Wright scored most of his 11 points in the second half. UNC's depth ultimately won the day, as it should all season, and they scored points in every way imaginable. I might not have gone out on a limb earlier, but maybe I am when I say that Carolina is the best team in the country.

I know, OSU fans, with Oden in the lineup, this is a different team and Wednesday is a different game. There is no matching up with the 7-footer on the offensive or defensive end, and his presence would have negated some of Hansbrough's strengths and maybe actually given the Buckeyes even more open looks from the outside. Ohio State has every reason to be optimistic with the team's red-hot 3-point shooting (13-of-26) and 30 dazzling points from Ron Lewis. Oh, and that Daequan Cook kid had a good night, too.

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