Everyone on Carolina's heels

In the days since the NCAA Tournament field was announced, much has been made of the depth and difficulty of the East Regional, and all of that might be true.

But the cold facts remain the same -- North Carolina is the top seed and, if all goes as planned, will get to play in Raleigh and Charlotte, not requiring to hop on a plane until San Antonio and the Final Four. Good work, if you can get it.

Now understand, Carolina should lead the pack. At 32-2, the Tar Heels soared once point guard Ty Lawson returned from an ankle injury, winning both the ACC regular-season and tournament titles. In the ferocious Tyler Hansbrough, Carolina likely has the National Player of the Year. Around them, talent and ability abound.

If ever there was a time and place for the Heels to bury the bitter memory of blowing last year's regional final to Georgetown, this would be it, a warm and friendly Tobacco Road crowd covered in blue over the next two weekends. Mount Saint Mary's, the Northeast Conference champs who beat Coppin State in the play-in game, will be of no concern at the outset.

Then, Carolina gets Arkansas or Indiana. To say the Hoosiers have gone through a bit of recent turmoil would be understating it a wee bit. Kelvin Sampson's messy departure, combined with Dan Dakich's inability to rekindle the fire even with Eric Gordon and D.J. White around, leaves Indiana quite vulnerable from the get-go.

Yes, John Pelphrey wasn't the first Arkansas choice to replace Stan Heath, as Dana Altman stayed for a day, then hightailed it back to Creighton. But Pelphrey has shown his worth, helping the Razorbacks peak at the end and get to the SEC Tournament finals. Even if Carolina ends the fun, the Hogs are quite capable of escaping the first round.

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