The Sweet 16 continues on Friday night in the NCAA Tournament. The 13th seed Ohio Bobcats are living the dream right now and will take on the top-seeded North Carolina Tar Heels in the Midwest Regional Final. The game is scheduled for a 7:47 p.m. start time and it will be televised nationally on TBS. Currently the odds have North Carolina favored by 10.5 points with the total sitting at 142.5 points.
Free Analysis: The 13th seeded Ohio Bobcats have become this year's Cinderella story by becoming the first No. 13 seed to reach the Sweet 16. The game marks the second time Ohio has ever played in a regional final while North Carolina is one of the first few schools mentioned anytime college basketball is discussed. However, Ohio doesn't seem to care too much about that right now. "Nobody in our locker room feels like we're a Cinderella team," D.J. Cooper said Thursday. "We feel like we can compete with anybody on the national stage." They've proven that twice to this point in the tournament, knocking off fourth-seed Michigan and and South Florida in the second round. The Bobcats have rolled up 29 wins this season and will be taking on a 31-win North Carolina team that is a bit banged up. North Carolina likely will be without a 100% point guard in Kendall Marshall, but some reports are saying that he will play. Marshall had surgery to put a pin in his wrist, which was fractured in the team's blowout win over Creighton in the second round. Reports today are saying the cast is off Marshall's wrist, but he is still wearing a brace. He hasn't practiced yet and told reporters on Thursday that if the game were that night, he wouldn't be able to play. That's a major blow for the Tar Heels because Marshall was the second option after Dexter Strickland blew out his knee back in January. If Marshall can't go, that leaves Carolina with frosh Stilman White or Justin Watts. "We have planned as if he's going to play, and then obviously you got to have some type of contingency plans in your mind in terms of adjustment of offensive and defensive strategy," Ohio coach John Groce said of Marshall. "But it does make it difficult because, obviously, he makes them a different team." The Bobcats like to bomb it away from the perimeter and have been playing some pretty effective defense lately. Ohio is forcing more than 17 turnovers a game, and ranks fourth in the country in steals (9.3). They're also giving up just 62 points per game this season. The Bobcats will look to feed the ball to Cooper, who averaged 20 points, six assists and four rebounds in Ohio's first two tournament games. Carolina coach Roy Williams knows keying on a guy like Cooper is big for his team. "D.J. Cooper of course, because he's really a gifted kid who, the last couple games, has really been dominant for them," Williams said when reporters asked him if he had concerns about the Bobcats. "But they're really a good basketball team. They guard you, they take the ball away from you, they rebound the basketball." North Carolina obviously provides a much bigger task for the Bobcats than either Michigan or South Florida — literally. Ohio has only one player taller than 6-foot-8-inches, and the 6-foot-10 Ethan Jacobs has appeared in only one game in the last month. The Bobcats get about 34 rebounds a game, and no one player averages more than five a piece. Carolina, on the other hand, starts three players that are taller than 6-foot-8 including 7-foot Tyler Zeller and John Henson. The Tar Heels corral 44 rebounds per game with both Zeller and Henson averaging more than 10 per contest. Henson also had a bit of a wrist problem but seems to be OK. They could really bang up Ohio inside, but the Bobcats could have an advantage offensively, spreading the Heels out.
Free Pick: I like the points here because I think that Ohio is going to be able to keep it close. There's always a bit of a problem backing teams that rely so heavily on the 3-point and jump shots. What if they have a bad shooting night? That's obviously a concern, but with the way the Bobcats are playing I think they're going to hang around. Carolina's front line could prove to be a huge advantage for them. However, the uncertainty of Marshall in this contest has to be a concern for the Heels and that's one of the reasons we're going to back the Bobcats here.
Betting Strategies: March Madness 2012 - Recaps and Tips Host Marco D'Angelo and Pregame Pro Bryan Leonard discuss their recaps of the first "half" of the NCAA March Madness tournament and give their insight and tips on how to approach Sweet 16 and beyond.