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NCAA Tournament GOY
Syracuse +1 vs Oklahoma
In order to justify one of my biggest plays of the entire year in any sport, I am going to analyze several different aspects to this game. First, let's look at the coaching match-up of Jim Boeheim vs. Jeff Capel. Boeheim has much more experience than Capel and is an excellent big game coach. Capel is a very good coach as well though. Overall, I give a slight edge to Syracuse in regards to the head coach. Next, let's compare overall guard play on both teams. The Orange have a huge edge here, as Johnny Flynn and Eric Devendorf are very under-rated guards. They are significantly better than Oklahoma's guards. Oklahoma's guards are turnover prone, as well. The Sooners had 19 turnovers against Oklahoma State in the Big 12 Championship game, 21 turnovers against Missouri in the regular season, and 15 turnovers against Morgan State in the 1st round. However, I feel that the biggest advantage in this game is the size and depth of Syracuse's big men. They will be able to continually challenge Blake Griffin on the inside while not having to worry about foul trouble. Arinze Onuaku and Rick Jackson are big bodies and excellent forwards who will be able to at least slow down Griffin without worrying about foul trouble. One last important key to look at is the two games involving Big East teams against Big 12 teams in the NCAA tournament 2nd round. Marquette was either the worst or second worst team from the Big East to make it into the tournament. Meanwhile, Missouri was arguably the best or tied for the best team in the Big 12 this season. However, the Tigers let the Golden Eagles back into the game after leading by double digits at halftime. In fact, Missouri's high tempo style of play didn't affect Marquette in the second half, as they made a furious rally and take the lead. In addition, Pittsburgh, once playing with motivation, was able to pull away from Oklahoma State with relative easy late in the 1st half and in the 2nd half. The Panthers don't typically blow teams out anyway, but the talent gap was obvious once they focused. These games show me that there is a talent gap between the Big 12 and Big East teams. Both Syracuse and Oklahoma are being priced at their level of play from the regular season. However, Syracuse has vastly improved, while Oklahoma has shown some weaknesses. The Orange have much better overall team play with an excellent inside/outside combination. They also have better three point shooters and guards who can make tough shots at the end of the game. Having guards who can make shots during critical moments is one of the most important factors when handicapping these tough tournament games. Syracuse also has better three point shooters. The Orange are playing their best basketball of the season at just the right time, while the Sooners are over-rated, especially against the best teams in the country. Look for Syracuse to win this game outright.
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SWEET 16 GAME OF THE YEAR
PLAY ON Syracuse + vs. Oklahoma
As you already know, there is not a hotter team in this tourney than the Syracuse Orangemen. They picked the absolute best time of the year to be playing, by far, their best basketball of the season. This team was ultra talented all season long, however sometimes it just didn't seem to click. Well, it's clicking now and Oklahoma is about to catch the brunt of it on Friday night.
The Orange have lost just once in their last 10 games and that just happened to be to top overall seed Louisville in the Big East Championship game. Remember, the Syracuse players were running on fumes for that game after beating UConn in a SIX overtime game two days earlier followed by an overtime win vs. West Virginia the next night. Despite that situation, they actually led Louisville at half before literally running out of gas down the stretch. SU opened the NCAA tourney with two easy wins over SF Austin and a dominating performance over a very good Arizona State team in round two. They shot 55% vs. an ASU team that was the best defensive squad in the Pac 10. They are a very tough team to defend with all 5 starters averaging double digits. Point guard Johnny Flynn might be the best at his position in the nation and facing freshman Willie Warren for Oklahoma, the Cuse has a significant advantage at the most important position.
Oklahoma was in line for a #1 seed for much of the year, however we thought they were a bit over rated. Almost a one trick pony with forward Blake Griffin as the Cowboy. While Griffin is top notch, they really struggle with him out of the line up. This team was 25-1 when Griffin was injured in the Texas game on Feb. 21st. They proceeded to lose four of their next six games to drop out of #1 seed consideration. Griffin was back for four of those six games, however the Sooners just never seemed to get their mojo back. We'd argue they still don't have it back. They lost in the Big 12 tourney to Oklahoma State and really struggled to beat an average and very young Michigan team in round two of the Dance. OU thrives on out rebounding teams and getting second opportunities, however the Cuse is on of the top rebounding teams in the nation (15th) thus we don't see an advantage on the boards for the Sooners. Syracuse plays a solid 2-3 zone that most teams don't see throughout the season making them a tough match up. They will attempt to pack it in and surround Griffin taking him somewhat out of the game. Without Griffin going off here, we don't see OU winning this game. We'll take the balanced attack of Syracuse here.
A close look at the schedule tells us that Oklahoma beat up on the lesser teams, but really did struggle against the top teams in the Big 12 and in non-conference play. They did have two good wins in non-conference play, however neither was a dominating performance. They beat Purdue on a neutral court in overtime and played host to USC and squeaked out a 1-point win. Versus the top teams in the Big 12, they split with Texas, lost to Kansas and lost to Mizzou. Now Griffin's injury did factor into a few of those games, however they haven't proven to be consistent against the best team's they played this season.
Syracuse, on the other hand, has wins over Memphis, UConn, Marquette, Kansas and West Virginia to name a few. Oh by the way, that 72-65 win over Memphis was on the ROAD. Nobody wins @ Memphis. Ironically, this game is being played on Memphis home court, Fed Ex Forum, so Syracuse has played their already this year with massive success. Don't overlook that factor. Syracuse came out of the top conference in America and nearly won the post-season tourney. They are rolling no doubt. While Oklahoma will have the best player on the court in Griffin, Syracuse might have the 2nd, 3rd and 4th best players. We also have a coaching advantage as Boeheim has a National Championship and while Capel has done well, he hasn't been on this stage as a head coach. Syracuse gets the win and moves on to the Elite 8!
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10* NCAA TOURNAMENT *GAME OF THE YEAR*
Gonzaga has been an underdog of more than five points only twice over the last three years and that includes none this season. Do the Bulldogs deserve to be huge underdogs in this spot? Absolutely not. This is the second biggest line of the Regional Semis with Louisville over Arizona surpassing this number by just a half-point. These types of games come down to value when the matchups are not heavily skewed to one side and the value is definitely on the side of Gonzaga here. I do consider North Carolina to be one of the top teams in the country so this is taking nothing away from what it has accomplished or what it may accomplish in the next two weeks. I will say that the Bulldogs are not underdogs very often due to playing in a very weak conference overall but they do play some very solid out of conference games and that includes a game against North Carolina in MSG two years ago that resulted in a Gonzaga win as 7.5-point underdogs. Once again this season, the Tar Heels have been overvalued. Despite a 30-4 record, they are just 13-19 ATS and it is pretty obvious why that percentage against the number is so low. As a single-digit favorite, North Carolina is only 1-5 ATS this season and that lone victory came against Duke as a two-point chalk. I take a long look at efficiency numbers and of the eight games Thursday and Friday, Gonzaga has the second biggest advantage of all of those with an overall rating edge of +20.3. The fact that is has the edge is one thing but to have the edge and be backed with such a high point spread is another. As far as raw shooting numbers, the Bulldogs have the edge in offensive and defensive shooting, both regular and from long range. Those variances are even more pronounced over the last five games where Gonzaga also has the advantage in free throw shooting and assist/turnover ratio margin. The argument will be made that this is all due to strength of schedules and the opposition each team has played but the schedules are not off by that much to make such a major difference. We have seen it numerous times in the past that the Bulldogs are in fact capable of not only playing with, but beating the so called elite teams outside their conference. Gonzaga is one of a select few teams that comes close to North Carolina in experience, height and skill. And the Bulldogs may gain confidence from knowing that North Carolina was ranked second in the country when Gonzaga beat the Tar Heels in the 2006 Preseason NIT in the only previous meeting between the schools. North Carolina's Ty Lawson was the ACC player of the year, , is in almost the same situation that he was in March 9, a day after he played 36 minutes in a 79-71 win over Duke to close the regular season. The toe swelled then and pain increased, and Lawson missed three consecutive games. The LSU game was his first game since playing against Duke and Lawson said that his toe was swelling and hurting after the LSU game. I can almost guarantee that he will be playing but it is very possible that he will be less effective this time around because of the much shorter turnaround. He will square off against Jeremy Pargo, who is a slasher and he will give Lawson all he can handle. North Carolina is 8-19 ATS in its last 27 road games in the second half of the season against teams that are allowing 39 percent shooting or less Gonzaga has used playing the high scoring teams to its advantage with a solid defense as it is 11-2 ATS in its last 13 games against teams that like to push it and are averaging 62 or more shots per game over the second half of the season. The Bulldogs have an excellent chance of winning this game outright if they are able to slow North Carolina down just enough. Even still, the generosity in this line makes any type of a close game either way an easy winner. 10* Gonzaga Bulldogs
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21-5 ATS SWEET 16 UNDERDOG OF THE YEAR!
At 9:55 pm, our Sweet 16 Underdog of the Year is on the Gonzaga Bulldogs plus the points over North Carolina, as the Zags fall into a terrific tourney system of mine that's 21-5 ATS since 1991. What we want to do is play on any NCAA Tourney underdog of +1.5 points or more, in the 2nd round of the Tournament forward, that's off back to back ATS losses. After registering ATS wins in its last three lined games heading into the NCAA Tourney, the Bulldogs have failed to cover their first two games (vs. Akron and Western Kentucky). In contrast, North Carolina was a perfect 2-0 ATS in its games last weekend, with blowout wins over Radford and LSU. But teams off back to back ATS wins in the Tournament have covered just 33 percent of the time vs. foes off a Tourney win and back to back ATS losses. Interestingly, these two teams met two seasons ago, and Gonzaga won that ballgame straight-up, also as an 8-point underdog. That's key here, as guys like Josh Heytvelt and Jeremy Pargo were on that squad, so they KNOW they can beat this North Carolina team. Finally, Mark Few's men have flown under the radar all season, due in part to their early exits in Round 1 the past two years (in games vs. Indiana and Davidson). And those two seasons followed three years which saw the Zags seeded #3 or higher yet fail to reach the Final Four. All of this has led the national media to discount the Zags as a team that can win a lot of games in the West Coast Conference, but one that cannot achieve the ultimate task of winning the National Championship. The curious thing about this mindset is that this year's edition of the Bulldogs might very well be the best yet. An outright upset would not be a surprise here. Take the points.
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30 DIMER - SYRACUSE ORANGEMEN
10 DIMER - ARIZONA WILDCATS
10 DIMER - KANSAS JAYHAWKS
30 DIMER - SYRACUSE ORANGEMEN
In case you aren't aware, the Big East is mopping up the floor with the competition in this year's Big Dance, as both Connecticut, Villanova, and Pittsburgh ALL advanced to the Elite 8 last night. True, Pittsburgh was a non-cover, but you get the picture.
That being said, G-Man has to ride the streaking Orange-Express, as the backcourt of Syracuse is stepping up huge right now, and I highly doubt the Sooners backcourt is going to match them tonight.
True, Blake Griffin is likely to get his, but if the Orangemen take care of the rest of the players on the floor, they definitely should be advancing to the Elite 8 along with their other conference brethren.
The Orangemen are on a 9-1 run both straight up, and against the spread, and when you get right down to it, who would you rather put your "X's and O's" trust in, Boeheim or Capel?
Orangemen the play!
10 DIMER - ARIZONA WILDCATS
True I just sang the praises of the Big East, and true, Louisville is a member of the Big East, but I just think the linemakers have once again inflated the number on the 'Ville this evening.
Louisville is 2-0 straight up in the Dance, but 0-2 against the spread, while Arizona has been a double-digit winner in both of their tourney games thus far, and they do have a couple of players that will be playing at the next level real soon.
That is a good combination to have in a single-elimination game, especially when you are catching near double-digits.
Look for Louisville to make it a 5-for-5 straight sweep into the Elite 8 for the Big East, but look for the Wildcats to stay inside of this roomy impost.
Take the points here.
10 DIMER - KANSAS JAYHAWKS
Tonight's Kansas-Michigan State contest is rematch of a January 10th showdown in East Lansing that was won by double-digits by the host Spartans.
Doubt highly on a neutral court that State is able to duplicate that feat, as Kansas is definitely a team on the rise these days.
The defending champion Jayhawks are on a 26-8-1 spread run their last 35 lined games, and Bill Self's team has won, and covered both of their Big Dance games coming into this Indy showdown.
The G-Man has had his doubts about this Michigan State team, as I am not so sure they have enough CONSISTENT offense to be counted on when the chips are down.
WIth Cole Aldrich emerging as a huge paint presence, have to take the Jayhawks to avenge their January embarrassment at Michigan State with the revenge win.
Take Kansas plus the small number.
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UNC vs. Gonzaga
Pick: Over 162
Ty Lawson is going to be close to 85 percent with that toe entering this game, and once he gets a whiff of Jeremy Pargo's speed, he'll quickly zip up to 100. Challenges push you, and that will be the case for the Heels here, as the athleticism and pedigree of the West Coast's best squad will force an elite team to come together and completely roll them. After a tight start, look for the Heels to wear down the Zags, consistently raiding their transition defense. Don't be surprised to see UNC tickle the 100-point mark in a double-digit win
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Eastern Conference GOW on the Atl Hawks (7*)
The Hawks snuck into the postseason last year with the worst record of any of the 16 playoff participants but then took the Celtics (who would go on to win the title) to seven games in the first round (home team won all seven games). The Hawks won't have to worry about sneaking into this year's playoff field, as they enter this game at 42-30 (No. 4 seed) and four games clear of Miami and Philly, which are tied for the 5th-best record. Atlanta's headed for an opening round series in which the Hawks will own home court advantage. The Celtics are 54-19 on the season, a full five games behind the Cavs for the East's best record and after an 84-82 loss at Orlando on Wednesday, find themselves percentage points behind the Magic in the race for the East's second-best record. Pierce (20.2-5.8-3.7) and Ray Allen (18.4-3.5-2.8) have remained healthy all season, posting similar numbers to last year. However, KG's (15.8-8.5) production is slightly down and he's missed 16 games. He was limited to 17 minutes on Wednesday, as he works his way back from a knee injury. Rondo (11.9-5.3-8.5) continues to be bothered by his ankle (probable here but maybe limited minutes as well) plus the Celtics continue to play without reserves Tony Allen (7.8), Leon Powe (7.5-4.8) and , Brian Scalabrine (3.5). Then of course there is the "Curious Case of Stephon Marbury." Marbury joined the team at the beginning of March, with Boston sitting at 47-12. Now it's not all Marbury's fault but as Rivers tries to "work him into the rotation," the Celtics have gone 7-7 SU and 4-10 ATS. Marbury is averaging 2.7 PPG, while shooting 27.9 percent (2-of-13 on threes) and can't even spell the words defense or desire. The Hawks are led by the terrific backcourt duo of Johnson (21.7-4.4-5.9) and Bibby (14.9-3.6-5.0), with Flip Murray (11.7) becoming one of the league's most solid backcourt reserves. Williams (14.0-6.4) is still out at the small forward position but Evans (6.9) is playing well in his stead (has averaged 10.3 PPG over the last seven games), joining Smith (15.0-7.2) and Horford (11.5-9.2) in the starting frontcourt. The Hawks took advantage of a seven-game homestand from 3/7-19 to go 7-0 SU and ATS, before losing 102-96 at Cleveland. The team returned home after that one-game trip to beat the T-wolves and then Wednesday, lost at home to the Spurs, 102-92. This game vs Boston is pretty big, as the Hawks have lost two close ones to Boston this year, 103-102 in Boston on Nov 12 and 88-85 here in Atlanta on Dec 17. The Hawks were able to beat the Celtics in all three home playoff games last year and this Celtic team is not playing at anywhere near the same level as it was last April (plus is far from 100 percent healthy). A word to the Hawks. If not now, when? Eastern Conference GOW on the Atl Hawks (7*)
Revenge Game of the Month on the Dal Mavericks (9*)
The Mavs got some help last night from the Blazers, who beat the Suns. That gives Dallas a four-game lead over the Suns in the loss column (3 1/2 overall) for the eighth and final playoff spot in the West. The 43-28 Mavs are still capable of moving up from that No. 8 seed though, as Denver, Houston and New Orleans all have 26 losses, while Portland and Utah have 27. Speaking of the Nuggets, they are 46-26 and one game ahead of the Blazers and 1 1/2 up on the Jazz, in the Northwest Division. Denver grabbed an important road win at New Orleans on Wednesday, winning 101-88, despite Nene (14.6-7.8) not palying. The undersized center is likely to miss again tonight (he's appealing his two-game suspension) and that's not good news, as Denver's road win on Wednesday was just the team's SECOND road win in nine games (since Feb 20). Anthony (22.3-6.8) and Billups (18.4-6.3 APG) are the team leaders but Denver's depth is a big reason the team's 46-26 mark is its best record through 72 games since joining the NBA back in the mid 70s. Smith (14.5-3.8), Jones (5.5) and Carter (5.3-4.7 APG) have all contributed in the backcourt, while Kleiza (9.7-3.9), Andersen (6.4-5.9) and Balkman (5.5-4.2) have done fine jobs in the frontcourt. Andersen, in particular has been very good as of late, averaging 10.0 PPG and 7.1 RPG over the last seven games.The Mavs got Terry (19.9-3.6 APG) back sooner than expected from his broken hand (missed just eight games) but then lost Howard (18.0-4.9) to that bothersome ankle problem (return unknown). Dampier (5.6-7.1) missed two games with a knee injury but was back on the court Wednesday, playing 23 minutes (eight points and 10 boards) in the team's 128-106 home win over the Warriors. Dallas opened 0-4 at home but Wednesday's win gave them 26 wins in their last 30 home games. Nowitzki (25.5-8.3) continues to produce night in and night out, while Kidd (9.2-6.3-8.3), Bass (8.6-4.5) and Wright (7.8) have all been pretty good. Wright is stepping up with Howard out, as he's averaged 11.6 PPG over his last nine games. The Nuggets are 3-0 vs the Mavs this year, winning three-point and two-point decisions in Denver plus winning by 10 in Dallas, back on Dec 15. The Nuggets will attempt to sweep the season series from the Mavs tonight, for the first time since the Dallas franchise began play in 1980. As Lee Corso loves to say, "not so fast!" Revenge Game of the Month on the Dal Mavericks (9*)
Weekly Wipeout Winner Kansas (7.5*)
Michigan St was the Big 10's best team this year (at 15-3, the Spartans won the regular season title by a four-game margin) but how much does that really mean? Purdue (Big 10 tourney champ) was no match for U Conn last night and I see the Spartans bowing out tonight vs Kansas. Kansas can claim to be the defending champ but with all five starters gone from last year's team (plus Sasha Kaun), it's in name only! However, Bill Self's team accomplished quite a bit this year, winning its FIFTH straight Big 12 regular season title, with a 14-2 league mark. Collins (18.9-5.0 APG) has been brilliant all season (averaged just 9.3-3.1 LY) and the improvement of the 6-11 Aldrich (14.8-11.0) is nothing short of remarkable (2.8-3.0 LY). Three freshman have been major contributors, guard Taylor (9.8) plus the Morris twins. The 6-8 Marcus averages 7.5-4.8 and the 6-9 Markieff, 4.7-4.4. Sophomore guards Reed (6.6) and Morningstar (6.6) have been solid, while 6-5 JUCO swingman Little (4.8-3.3) has been a good addition since getting on the court in January. There's no denying Tom Izzo's tourney record but I don't think his team is all that good. Lucas (14.6-4.5 APG) is a talented guard by he's no Collins. The 6-7 Morgan (10.7-5.5) should have been the team's best player this year but he's been less than 100 percent, almost the entire year. The 6-10 Suton (9.4-8.0) is a decent player but again, he's no Aldrich. The 6-8 Roe (6.0-5.3), the 6-8 Gray (3.4-3.1) and the 6-6 Green (2.8-3.1) round out the frontcourt contributors. Joining Lucas in the backcourt is fellow starter Walton (5.3-2.3-3.2) plus Allen (9.0) and Summers (8.3-3.2). Michigan St easily handled Kansas back on Jan 10, jumping out to a 37-18 halftime lead in a 72-60 win. However, that game was at The Palace of Auburn Hills, hardly a neutral site. Lucas had 22 points in that game, while Morgan had 13-8 but note that Collins countered with 25 points (despite shooting 2-of-8 on threes), while Aldrich had 14-11. Kansas is a much better team now and all year, MSU has been known to throw in some 'clunkers.' The Spartans lost at home to Northwestern (?) and Penn St plus was embarrassed by a mediocre Ohio St team (just ask Siena) in the Big 10 tourney, losing 82-70. The Buckeyes shot 53.2 percent and scored 82 points in that game, vs a Michigan St team known for its defense (63.1 PPG allowed / 41.4 FG percentage). Moragn had just six points against the Buckeyes but did open with 16 points vs Robert Morris. However, in MSU's second round win over USC, Morgan shot 0-for-4 in 17 minutes (three points / two rebounds). Kansas can score (76.8 PPG) and its defense is pretty darn good, allowing opponents to make just 38.2 percent (5th-best in the nation). Collins has scored 57 points and handed out 10 assists in the first two games of this year's tourney, while Aldrich has 36 points and 33 rebounds. That duo plus a solid supporting cast will be too much for the overrated Big 10 regular season champs. Weekly Wipeout Winner Kansas (7.5*)
PERFECT STORM on Gonzaga (9*)
Roy Williams has been back in Carolina for six years, going 170-37 (.821). He enters this Sweet 16 game at 588-138 (.810) in his 21-years as a head coach. Not bad. Well how about Gonzaga's Mark Few? He's in his 10th year at Gonzaga and will enter tonight's game with a 10-year mark of 264-65 (.802), with the only school he's ever led. Carolina is college basketball 'royalty' but "the little school from Spokane" is in its 11th straight NCAA tourney (10 under Few) and 5th Sweet 16. The Tar Heels had an easy time with Radford, as PG Ty Lawson (16.1-2.7-6.5) rested his sore toe. Lawson returned to score 23 points and hand out six assist vs LSU, as North Carolina won, 84-70. However, Roy Williams' team led LSU only 67-63 at the seven-minute mark, before breaking the game open late. Lawson is expected to play again here but no one knows for sure the condition of his toe. Joining him in the backcourt is Ellington (15.7-4.8-2.7) and on the wing, it's the 6-6 Green (13.2-4.9). Last year's national p-o-y, the 6-9 Hansbough (21.2-8.1) is joined up front by the 6-9 Thompson (10.9-6.0). Carolina is not as deep as in years past, as right now, only 6-10 freshman Davis (6.7-6.7) and senior guard Frasor (2.7) are getting much playing time. The Bulldogs struggled early on vs Akron in round one but pulled away for an easy 13-point win (margin could have been greater). They then were life-and-death with Western Ky (won at the buzzer, 83-81) but as we've come to learn these last two years, those Hilltoppers can sure play. Gonzaga is not deep either but the team has quite a six-man rotation. PG Pargo (10.1-3.5-5.0) is a terrific leader and his three fellow guards are match up 'nightmares' for most teams. Bouldin (13.8-4.1-3.5) and Gray (9.2-3.3) are both 6-5, while Downs (9.5-4.6) checks in at 6-8. Two 6-11 players comprise the team's frontcourt, Heytvelt (14.9-6.7) and Daye (12.8-6.7). Carolina was the AP's preseason No. 1 team and spent more time atop that poll than any team in the nation, although Louisville took the nation's No. 1 ranking into the tourney. It should be noted though, that entering the tourney, North Carolina was just 11-19 ATS, before covering both of its first two NCAA games. The Tar Heels entered this year's "Big Dance" on a 2-9 ATS slide (since Feb 9) and on the year, were just 1-5 ATS as a single-digit favorite (lone cover was a win at Duke, as a two-point choice!). Meanwhile, Gonzaga has lost just one game the last two seasons (53-12 record) by more than 10 points! That was an 'ugly' 68-50 loss to Memphis on Feb 7, which by the way, is the team's ONLY loss since the calendar changed to 2009 (20-1). It may come as a surprise to some that North Carolina allows 72.3 PPG (the most of any ACC team), while Gonzaga has held its opponents to 61.9 PPG and to 37.2 percent on FG attempts (No. 2 in the nation!). These two schools met back in the 2006-07 season in the Preseason NIT tourney and Gonzaga won that game, 82-74. Think that game and result is not relevant? Think again. Bouldin, Heytvelt and Pargo all played on that Gonzaga team, each scoring in double digits while combining for 49 points. Participating in that game for Carolina were Ellington, Green, Hansbough, Lawson and Thompson. Those names sound familiar? They should, as the above group will be North Carolina's starting-five tonight! Take the points! PERFECT STORM on Gonzaga (9*).