With Lawson, it's Tar Heels

FACEOFF

Which Team Will Win The Ncaa Men's National Championship?

March 31, 2009|By DAVID STEELE

I did two brackets this year, a departure from my usual purist one-bracket rule. I filled out a "Ty Lawson" sheet and a "non-Ty Lawson" sheet. On the latter - in which the North Carolina point guard and Atlantic Coast Conference Player of the Year was unable to take the court because of his injured toe - the Tar Heels went out in the Sweet 16, to Gonzaga.

The sheet in which Lawson played all the important games (excluding, of course, the first-round warm-up against Radford) had North Carolina on the last line.

Lawson has played throughout, and North Carolina has barely been challenged so far. With him at full strength (and, more critically, full speed), the Tar Heels go from talented and deep but just flawed enough to get equalized to near-untouchable. They made Gonzaga and Oklahoma, two very worthy teams, look as if they didn't belong in the field.

Teams have managed, somewhat, to match up with Tyler Hansbrough better than they have with Lawson.

Villanova, Carolina's national semifinal opponent, as quick and balanced as it is, doesn't have anyone who can. Michigan State might give the Heels a run defensively if it gets to the final. Connecticut is loaded, too, but not even the Huskies will be able to slow down Lawson enough and, thus, shut down Carolina enough. (The Huskies might also have to get back under the salary cap for this game. Oooooh, that's so wrong.)

So take a deep breath, swallow hard, squeeze a stress ball if you have to. But North Carolina is your next national champion. Hope you tossed out your "non-Ty" bracket in time.

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