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NCAA East Regional: Not like old times

Continuing our tour through the NCAA Tournament at the Sweet 16 stage, we venture into the East regional, where a familiar sight might greet long-time basketball fans at some point this Sunday.

You just knew that North Carolina was not going to lose in Winston-Salem. Still, the top-seed Tar Heels got the test it needed in front of blue-clad Tobacco Road partisans, when it battled Michigan State after its cruise through Eastern Kentucky.

Having already shut down Marquette, the Spartans knew it couldn't do the same against Carolina, yet led deep into the second half. But the Heels' depth, combined with the inside dominance of the mask-less Tyler Hansbrough, assured that the ACC would not get wiped out in the Dance's opening weekend.

As UNC lived on, so did another school known by three initials. Southern California could make a case as the most impressive team of the tournament's opening week, blowing through Spokane.

First of all, the Trojans proved that Arkansas had no business being in the field (sorry, bitter Syracuse fan talking). Then it played twice as good against Texas, whose scare against New Mexico State suggested that youth isn't always a good thing.

Somehow, USC made Kevin Durant irrelevant for much of that second-round meeting. There was just no way the Trojans were going to let another Texas superstar ruin a national-championship dream (see Vince Young, 2006 Rose Bowl).

Now the question is whether the Trojans' magic can transfer across the country to the New Jersey Meadowlands. With lots of hunger and absolutely no pressure, USC will make it tight all the way to the end, but UNC will survive.

Georgetown fans have waited a generation to be this good again. Much has been made of names like Thompson (John III) and Ewing (Patrick Jr.) being part of the mix, but the more critical point is the way the Hoyas play defense.

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