Andrew Carter, Joe Giglio and Laura Keeley, The N&O’s three college beat writers, took a quick break Thursday to share some of their insights, opinions and favorite moments about the NCAA tournament:
Q: All 3 teams start Friday. How many make the Sweet 16?
Andrew Carter: One. Duke. North Carolina will have a difficult time against Villanova and even if the Tar Heels advance, it’s unlikely they get past Kansas, which basically will be playing a home game in Kansas City. N.C. State can’t be counted on to win two win consecutive games against mediocre competition, let alone the likes of Temple and Indiana. If Duke doesn’t make it to the Sweet 16, it’d be a disappointment.
Laura Keeley: Just one Triangle team survives for a second trip. Gonzaga is the only No. 1 seed I have losing this weekend in my bracket.
Joe Giglio: Just Duke. With a better seed or matchup, either N.C. State or North Carolina could have, but it’s hard to go against Kansas in their home state or Indiana, which is basically just a better version of N.C. State, against N.C. State.
Q: What’s the one thing that has to happen in order for each to make it through the weekend?
Giglio: Lorenzo Brown and C.J. Leslie really drove the bus for N.C. State last March. They’ve both put up good numbers this season but it just doesn’t feel like they’ve really gotten their games going at the same time, like they did in 2012, at any point this season. If they can max out, and still get the typical production from Scott Wood and Richard Howell, then State could beat both Temple and Indiana.
Carter: It can’t be much simpler for the Tar Heels: They have to make their 3-pointers. For 35 minutes, UNC looked as good as it has all season last weekend against Miami in the ACC tournament championship game. The reason? The Heels shot well from the outside. UNC could probably survive an off shooting night against Villanova, but the Heels have no chance if that happens against Kansas.
Keeley: Duke can’t beat itself. The Blue Devils have to come out strong and ready to go, like they were for the final regular season game in Chapel Hill.
Q: We could get UNC-Kansas on Sunday. What’s the one matchup you’d like to see, as a fan?
Carter: How about a Steve Alford-coached New Mexico team against Indiana with the national championship on the line? That’d be dramatic. If not that, a Duke-Louisville rematch in the Midwest Region final could be fun.
Giglio: A UNC-UCLA matchup this year would have been more interesting than another UNC-Kansas game. A Miami, who was involved in the three best ACC games this season, and Indiana matchup might produce the best 40 minutes of the tournament.
Keeley: When I was growing up, my family lived next door to former Pittsburgh assistant Joe Lombardi for a few years, and I was a firm believer in the supremacy of Big East basketball. A younger version of me would like to see the Panthers have a chance to play for that long-coveted Final Four bid.
Q: What’s your favorite NCAA tournament moment?
Carter: I was 10 when Christian Laettner hit the shot against Kentucky in 1992. That moment hooked me on college basketball, and it’s an addiction I’ve battled since.
Giglio: There’s too many to name one. My earliest memories, I’m talking when I was 5 and 6, are of watching the Super Bowl and NCAA tournament with my dad back in New Jersey. In my teens, the tournament was always at the Meadowlands, so a lot of those East Region games still stick out — Christian Laettner’s shot against UConn (1990) in UNC’s comeback against Nick Van Exel and Cincinnati (1993) — to name two.
Keeley: The one and only bracket challenge I’ve ever won came in 2003, when Syracuse won the national title. It was the first one I ever entered, too. I’ve been chasing that March success ever since.