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CHRIS DUFRESNE

NCAA South Regional -- the bottom line

Chris Dufresne's choices on the march to the Final Four

March 18, 2009|Chris Dufresne

Put this in your tobacco pipe: North Carolina didn't become the first team since Indiana in 1976 to go unbeaten. The Tar Heels weren't the greatest team of all time. The Tar Heels did sweep Duke in Atlantic Coast Conference play but let Duke win the ACC tournament and now enter the big dance with their most important ballerina, Ty Lawson, nursing a sore toe.

Is this any way to win the national title?

Maybe.

Love this upper bracket. Look for No. 9 Butler in a close win over No. 8 Louisiana State and No. 12 Western Kentucky to upset No. 5 Illinois because Illinois guard Chester Frazier may be limited by an injury, and for No. 4 Gonzaga to leave tire tracks on No. 13 Akron.

Down below, No. 2 Oklahoma sends No. 15 Morgan State home and then beats, let's say Clemson, while No. 6 Arizona State and No. 3 Syracuse end up meeting in a Round 2 matchup of tremendous containment defenses.

Herb Sendek's matchup zone, the one that held UCLA scoreless for the final 8 minutes 14 seconds of regulation back in February, vs. Jim Boeheim's vaunted 2-3, imitated by many but surpassed by few. This produces a Sumo wrestling-like standoff and a low-scoring game that Arizona State wins because it goes triple overtime and that would make 10 overtimes in a week for Syracuse, which exceeds its monthly minutes plan.

Gonzaga and North Carolina go toe-to-Ty Lawson's toe in a regional semifinal and the Tar Heels hold off the Zags in a remarkable finish you'll just have to wait to witness.

Arizona State vs. Oklahoma in the other bracket features James Harden vs. Blake Griffin, NBA-ready players who aren't quite ready to go to the NBA yet.

Oklahoma prevails only because Griffin has a 25-25 points-rebounds game and makes the winning basket with a slam dunk at the buzzer.

That gets us to North Carolina and Oklahoma, Nos. 1 and 2 in the bracket, for a semi-classic regional final in Memphis in which Oklahoma outlasts North Carolina. The Tar Heels' roster is a little bit deeper and Coach Roy Williams is a little wiser than Okie up-and-comer Jeff Capel, a former Duke player, but the Sooners win anyway.

Final Four in Detroit: Oklahoma beats Pittsburgh. We could have gone for the all-Big East championship game but that would be too easy.

Championship game: Connecticut 78, Oklahoma 71.

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chris.dufresne@latimes.com

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