(The Sports Network)
The second-seeded North Carolina Tar Heels and seventh-seeded Washington Huskies will collide in third-round action of the 2011 NCAA Tournament's East Region today.
Next up for the winner of this tilt is a "Sweet 16" date with either third- seeded Syracuse or 11th-seeded Marquette.
In one of the second round's most competitive games, Washington managed to knock off Georgia by a 68-65 final. The Huskies are undoubtedly still flying high after beating Arizona in overtime on a buzzer beater to win the Pac-10 Conference Tournament. Washington has compiled a 18-16 mark through what is its 16th NCAA Tournament appearances. Head coach Lorenzo Romar has now led the Huskies to the "Big Dance" in six of this nine seasons as the program's leader, and this year's group currently owns a 24-10 overall record.
In a game that figured to feature plenty of scoring, North Carolina bested Long Island on Friday by a 102-87 final, and the team is now 27-7 overall this season. The Tar Heels won the ACC regular season title and reached the championship game of the conference tournament as well. They have now won 10 of their last 11 outings dating back to the regular season and have obvious peaked at the perfect time. North Carolina, which is a stellar 103-39 all-time in the NCAA Tournament, has five national titles to its credit, the most recent of which was earned in 2009.
With regard to the all-time series between these two teams, North Carolina won its only previous meeting with Washington back in 1973.
Washington was tied with Georgia at halftime on Friday, 28-28, and it took a 53.8 percent shooting effort from the field in the second half for the Huskies to pull away and win the game. Isaiah Thomas, the star guard of the Huskies who drained the game-winning shot in the Pac-10 title tilt, continued his outstanding play with a 19-point, seven-assist effort against the Bulldogs. He was the only starter for Washington to reach double figures in scoring, as standout forwards Matt Bryan-Amaning and Justin Holiday were held to eight and six points, respectively. Scott Suggs did contribute 10 points off the bench for UW, which committed a low total of five turnovers. Thomas is scoring 16.9 ppg this season to go along with his 6.0 apg, and Bryan-Amaning adds 15.3 ppg and 8.0 rpg. As for Holiday, he brings 10.7 ppg to the court for the Huskies, who are generating 83.1 ppg. Defensively, they are allowing 70.2 ppg.
Freshman Harrison Barnes continues to get better with every game for North Carolina, and he is now the team's leading scorer with 15.3 ppg. Tyler Zeller provides 15.0 ppg on 54.3 percent shooting from the field for the Tar Heels, and he is ripping down 7.1 rpg. As for John Henson, he rounds out a double- digit scorers with 11.9 ppg, but Henson is most known for his rebounding (10.1 rpg) and shot-blocking (109) ability. UNC is racking up 77.4 ppg while holding opponents to 68.3 ppg on 40.3 percent field goal efficiency. The "big three" of North Carolina were sensational against Long Island on Friday, as Barnes, Zeller and Henson combined for 84 points and 36 rebounds. Zeller posted 32 points, while Henson tallied 28 points, 11 boards and six blocks. Barnes pulled down a staggering total of 16 rebounds to go along wit his 24 points, and UNC benefited both from 50.7 percent shooting from the floor and a 54-39 rebounding advantage.
Expect a strong performance from UNC's frontcourt against the Huskies, as the Tar Heels move on to the "Sweet 16".
Sports Network Predicted Outcome: North Carolina 81, Washington 73