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New Orleans Regional breakdown

LSU may have home court, but UNC has all the keys

Posted: Tuesday March 18, 2008 12:46PM; Updated: Tuesday March 18, 2008 2:33PM
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Erlana Larkins put up a team-high 17 points in the Tar Heels' win over Duke for the conference tourney title.
Erlana Larkins put up a team-high 17 points in the Tar Heels' win over Duke for the conference tourney title.
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Underrated: DePaul. At 20-11, it would be easy to dismiss 10th-seeded DePaul, but this is a team that lost to just Texas and Tennessee in nonconference games. Granted, the Blue Demons didn't face the toughest of schedules early on, but they did have to maneuver their way through the rugged Big East. That 8-8 conference mark is a little misleading: Most of those were close calls -- losses to Notre Dame (fifth seed), Rutgers (second seed) and Connecticut (top seed) during the regular season were by a total of just 17 points. They've also notched wins against five-seeds West Virginia and Notre Dame.

Overrated: Florida State. Teams sitting at home next weekend will still be scratching their heads, wondering how the Seminoles even made it into the bracket as they limped to the finish, losing six of their last 10 games. While they managed to take Maryland and Virginia to overtime, the Seminoles didn't beat anyone that made the field of 64, going 0-8 against top 25 teams.

Bracket Buster: Georgia. It might be hard to think of Georgia as an underdog, but it is a No. 8 seed. The Bulldogs, who reached the Sweet 16 last season, have hardly lived up to expectations this year, but don't count out this scrappy team yet. It still has one of the premier players in Tasha Humphrey and a talented point guard in Ashley Houts. The Bulldogs haven't seemed to hit on all cylinders this season, but if they can do that, they're as dangerous as anyone.

Home cooking: LSU. The Tigers might have missed out on the No. 1 seed, but you can bet they won't mind the chance to stick around the state while trying to make their fifth consecutive Final Four. LSU will host the first two rounds, and it will take the Tigers longer to play the regional semis than it will to make the 76-mile trek to New Orleans.

Best player you've never heard of: Rachelle Fitz, Marist. Fitz was just a freshman when she led Marist to its first Sweet 16 a season ago. This season, the sophomore forward has put up impressive numbers, scoring more than 20 points 16 times and earning MAAC conference player of the year honors.

Best matchup: North Carolina-LSU. There are plenty of reasons to watch this matchup, which has all the makings of a track meet. North Carolina has the nation's highest scoring offense (87.9 points a game) while LSU has the top defense, giving up just 50.6 points a game. And, of course, there's the matchup Erlana Larkins and Sylvia Fowles, two of the best post players in the country.

The pick: North Carolina. The Tar Heels are on their way to a third-consecutive Final Four appearance. This year's team is even better than the last two. With 13 steals a game, North Carolina is still one of the best defensive teams in the country, but this 2008 version is more balanced on the offensive end. LSU may have home-state advantage, but the Tar Heels have more weapons.