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J. Hawg's Pen: NCAA Tournament Preview

Wesley Hitt/Arkansas

In honor of this week’s official start of the national holiday known as March Madness, we’ve asked some of our regular contributors to weigh in with their takes on the tournament. Today's post is written by frequent commenter J. Hawg 3, whose description of listening to the radio broadcast of the Tennessee game in the parking lot outside a wedding reception is still cracking us up a bit. So, sit back and enjoy J. Hawg's breakdown of the various tourney scenarios:

I was already depressed Sunday afternoon, watching this group of Hogs choke away their last chance at a ring. But when the first set of seeds were announced during the selection show, my heart sank. The Hogs drew about as bad a seed as was possible for them.

In the first place, there's Indiana. Two bona fide All-Big Ten selections in Eric Gordon and D. J. White, and a team that was ranked No. 7 in the country shortly before the Kelvin Sampson debacle. Yes, they have been inconsistent, even suicidally depressive since then under Dan Dakich. But, uh, so have the Hogs. I would submit Indiana, if they decide to play, is the toughest No. 8 seed in the tournament. I'd like our chances better with Mississippi State (we beat them once; should have beat them twice), even better with BYU or especially UNLV. Gordon will give our weak guards fits; White, when he's on, is a monster inside. And we have problems with really mobile and aggressive post players, despite our size.

The Hogs can certainly win against the Hoosiers, but only if the "good" Hogs show up. You know, the ones that can actually make a jump shot, don't fall asleep on in-bounds plays, pass the ball and rebound. Which is to say, the Hogs we saw Friday and Saturday and not the ones we saw Sunday. It would help immensely if the "bad" Hoosiers showed up as well. If the "good" Hoosiers and "good" Hogs both show up, it will be a whale of a ball game, too close to call. If the "bad" Hogs show up, they will lose, and lose badly if the "good" Hoosiers show. I just don't know how likely the Hoosiers are to play well for Dakich (they sure look like they are laying down), but the chances of the good Hogs showing are only about 70 percent (and I'm being charitable given our recent NCAA performances).

Let's have some fun and assume a win in the first round, which is a classic 8-9 toss up. The second round is, well, let's be frank: the Hogs have about as much chance of beating North Carolina as will Coppin State or Mt. St. Mary's. (An Indiana playing their best stands a lot better chance of beating North Carolina, by the way.) Again, almost any of the other No. 1 seeds would have been more favorable.

<!--more--> I really think the Hogs could beat Memphis, an up-tempo team with suspect defense and a less than stellar inside game, much like Tennessee. And for reasons I can't really explain, I think the Hogs would stand some chance with UCLA. I guess because I think we might be able to throw enough inside bodies against Love to slow him down or get him in foul trouble, but more likely because I just haven't seen enough of the Bruins. As for Kansas, well, our only real hope would be the much noted tendency of the Jayhawks to come up with a stinker in the Tourney. (I kept flipping to the Kansas-Texas game to try and quell my nausea during the abysmal SEC Final. Golly, those two teams are so fast, so skilled. At one point I caught the following stat, one so foreign to this group of Hogs that it might as well be a message from Pluto: at that point in the game, KU had 25 field goals and 23 assists. The Jayhawks, when on top of their game, don't dribble at all, they just pass.)

But back to the Tarheels. Someone said to me today, "Hey, we beat Tennessee, we should have a chance." To which I replied, "I have watched North Carolina, North Carolina was a friend of mine, and Tennessee, sir, is no North Carolina." North Carolina can play defense -- sticky, in your face, defense. The Volunteers, uh, not so much. And, while it might (might) have approximately the guard and wing offense of Carolina (especially if Ty Lawson is not 100%), Tennessee has nothing even close to the gut-up, bloody nose, will not be denied, all-out ferocity of Tyler "Psycho T" Hansbrough. Have we had a game in which Hill, Townes and Thomas all fouled out? Well, we could against Hansbrough. I guess there is a scenario in which the Hogs win, but it would require such an improbable construction (Hansbrough in early foul trouble, Beverley losing his fear of shooting, Townes dominating from the tip, Ervin playing the game of his life, Lawson reinjuring his ankle) that I can't honestly think it is possible.

Now, let's pretend we had beaten Georgia and received a No. 7 seed. Results not much better. We'd be okay in the East (Pelphrey-wrenching matchup with South Alabama, then the daunting task of taking two of three from Tennessee) or West (Arizona, then the daunting but not impossible task of Duke), but no better off in the South (where we'd lose to Texas despite the Alltel setting) or the Midwest (where we'd likely lose to Davidson in the first round, and surely to Georgetown in the second). If I could put us anywhere in the bracket where we would have had the best chance, I would have liked 6 or 11 in the East (with a chance against Louisville) or 6, 7, 10 or 11 in the West (with a chance against Xavier and Duke). In either of those regions, I could conceive of a Sweet Sixteen run.

Sorry, pick the Hogs to win in your bracket pool if you must. But the Tourney ends for the Hogs in Raleigh. All we can hope is it won't be until Sunday.