03/22/2012 01:48 am ET

Sweet 16: UNC, Ohio Face Off In NCAA Tournament [Predict]

By Greg Mengelt, CollegeHoops.Net

(1) North Carolina vs. (13) Ohio: Midwest Region

North Carolina 31-5, 14-2 ACC (Regular-season Conference Champions; At large)
Ohio 29-7, 11-5 MAC (Conference Tournament Champions)

Time: 7:47 p.m. Friday


Location: Edward Jones Dome in St. Louis

Winner will face: (2) Kansas or (11) North Carolina State, Sunday

Tournament Results
North Carolina def. Vermont 77-58; def. Creighton 87-78
Ohio def. Michigan 65-60; def. South Florida 62-56

North Carolina No. 4 AP; No. 5 ESPN/USA Today Coaches Poll

RPI Ratings
North Carolina 4
Ohio 43

Line: North Carolina -10½ (O/U 143)

Players to Watch

North Carolina: F Tyler Zeller, 7-0 Sr. (16.5 ppg, 9.5 rpg, 50.2% FG); F Harrison Barnes, 6-8 So. (17.3 ppg, 5.2 rpg, 37.6% 3s); F John Henson, 6-11 Jr. (13.8 ppg, 10.1 rpg, 2.9 bpg). Henson returned from a wrist injury with an impressive 13-point, 10-rebound, 4-block performance in the Tar Heels’ impressive win over Creighton.

Ohio: G D.J. Cooper, 5-11 Jr. (14.7 ppg, 5.7 apg, 2.3 spg); G Walter Offutt, 6-3 Jr. (11.7 ppg, 3.5 rpg, 1.8 apg); G Nick Kellogg, 6-3 So. (8.8 ppg, 1.1 spg, 41.8% 3s). Offutt is a great story. After several knee injuries and a couple of transfer, Offutt proved that he still has the talent to play the game on Sunday, putting up 21 points on 7-of-9 from the field, including hitting all four of his 3-pointers.

Why Each Team Is Dangerous

North Carolina: With Henson back in the fold, no team rebounds and defends the basket better than the Tar Heels. Against Creighton, Carolina had a 43-34 rebounding advantage, got 11 offensive boards and blocked nine shots. UNC shot 50.8 percent from the field and hit half of its 3s. The Heels also held Creighton – the nation’s leading field goal shooting team – to 28-of-68.

Ohio: The Bobcats win with steady guard play and defense. Cooper, Offutt and Kellogg make up a strong backcourt. The Bobcats average 13.1 assists per game and has a plus-4.3 turnover ratio. Defensively, Ohio allows opponents to shoot just 41.2 percent from the floor and 29.3 from the line. They force 17.3 turnovers and get 9.3 steals per game. They had nine steals, among five different players, in the win over South Florida.

Why Each Team Is Vulnerable

North Carolina: If Marshall is out – and he likely is for at least this game – who runs the point for Carolina? Marshall is arguably the nation’s best point guard and almost undoubtedly the most important. The Tar Heels already turn the ball over 12 times and allows six steals per game. Without Marshall, Ohio’s defense becomes very dangerous. Carolina is not a great shooting team, hitting just 34.2 percent from behind the 3-point line and 68.4 from the free throw line.

Ohio: The Bobcats can not contend with North Carolina on the boards. They were out-rebounded on the season and South Florida had a plus-7 rebounding margin on Sunday. For the season, they shoot just 43 points from the field, 34.2 from the 3-point line and 68.8 from the foul line. Ohio also turns the ball over 13 times per game. Against a longer, more athletic UNC team, taking care of the basketball could prove difficult.

The Bottom Line: Ohio’s been a nice story, but the teams the Bobcats have beaten have had serious flaws. North Carolina may have a flaw or two, especially if Marshall isn’t able to play, but it’s hard to imagine the Bobcats getting many rebounds or points in the paint.

CollegeHoops.Net Pick: North Carolina 79, Ohio 61

Greg Against the Spread This Season: 214-164-6
NCAA Tournament (through first two rounds): 27-21-1