Elite 8: North Carolina-Oklahoma Preview, Analysis, and Prediction

Note: This post is from 2009. To view our 2010 March Madness coverage, use the following links:


This post will analyze the North Carolina-Oklahoma Elite 8 game using a statistical analysis provided by the Game Predictor at ESPN.com, which is powered by TeamRankings.com. For an analysis of how this program works, hop over to the first individual game Sweet 16 preview I put out for UConn-Purdue. The methodology is all explained there.

(You have my apologies in advance for the relative shortness of this Elite 8 preview. I’ve spent a good 2 to 3 hours on each of the others, but I’m under the gun after an oil change for my car took a little longer than expected and a huge birthday bash for my girlfriend’s grandfather is quickly impending. But I’ll try to go as in-depth as I can on this one.)

Both North Carolina and Oklahoma head into Sunday’s South Regional Final riding incredible waves of momentum.North Carolina-Oklahoma Preview and Prediction

North Carolina has their leader back in Ty Lawson, looking healthier by the minute, and he led them to victory over an overmatched Gonzaga team last night. Lawson scored 19 points and had 9 assists in the 98-77 North Carolina victory, while Tyler Hansbrough poured in 24 points on efficient 8-10 shooting and had 10 rebounds.

Likewise, Blake Griffin is showing no ill-effects from the injury that sidelined him towards the end of the regular season and Oklahoma is beginning to look like the team that many thought was going to be a #1 seed before slumping down the stretch. OU completely took apart Syracuse last night, winning 84-71, and earning the only victory I did not predict from the eight Sweet 16 games.

Tomorrow’s game should be a good one, and certainly more competitive than the Sweet 16 games for each. Here are the particulars:

North Carolina-Oklahoma South Regional Final – Elite 8 Preview and Prediction

Now let’s hop over to Game Predictor for a quick look at this one, using the same statistical categories we’ve used for each Sweet 16 game and each Elite 8 game:

  • Offensive Efficiency: North Carolina – 1.156 | Oklahoma – 1.125
  • Defensive Efficiency: North Carolina – 0.933 | Oklahoma – 0.956
  • Assist/TO Ratio: North Carolina – 1.425 | Oklahoma – 1.118
  • Free Throw %: North Carolina – 0.762 | Oklahoma – 0.675
  • Defensive Field Goal %: North Carolina – 0.413 | Oklahoma – 0.395

UNC-Oklahoma Elite 8 Preview, Prediction, Spread Pick And the prediction from Game Predictor:

  • Odds to Win Game: North Carolina – 72.9% | Oklahoma – 27.1%
  • Most Likely Final Score: North Carolina – 74.5 | Oklahoma – 66.9
  • Odds to Cover Spread (OU +6.5): North Carolina – 61.4% | Oklahoma – 38.6%
  • Confidence Level: 4 Stars

North Carolina-Oklahoma Preview, Spread Pick, Prediction, Game Time I am not surprised by the Game Predictor analysis, nor do I disagree.

Oklahoma is a very good team, and Blake Griffin is obviously monster. The battle between he and Tyler Hansbrough is going to be a great one, and features 2 of perhaps the 5 five best college basketball players over the last half decade. Griffin most likely will not be a four-year player like Hansbrough has been, and Oklahoma-UNC Preview and Prediction, Game Time, Spreadhas much more upside at the next level because of his athleticism, but Hansbrough is a wily old veteran who will come as close as anyone can to battling Griffin to a draw.

That leaves the rest of the two teams’ respective rosters to decide this game. And unless Griffin just dominates Hansbrough, I don’t see the rest of the Oklahoma team being able to do enough to keep pace with North Carolina.

Willie Warren is a fine player, especially for a freshman, and has a bright future, but Ty Lawson is 3-year veteran with tournament experience whose vast improvement from downtown has provided another weapon for a North Carolina offense that already had plenty. The Tar Heels average an astounding 90.5 points per game, utilizing the same attacking style of offense that was on display last night against Gonzaga. Oklahoma has shown that they can play in the 90s this season, but against the likes of Baylor and Texas Tech, neither of which, obviously, is the caliber of North Carolina.

For Oklahoma to compete, Warren will obviously need to be on his game from a scoring standpoint, and guys like Taylor Griffin, Tony Crocker, and Austin Johnson will need to defy their season averages and two or three of them will need to get into double figures. North Carolina has five guys who average in double figures on the season, and while Oklahoma displayed solid defense last night against Syracuse, they will have to step it up another notch or two to contain this potent Tar Heels offense.

Honestly, it looks to me like this Tar Heels team is on a mission that was going to be derailed by one thing: Ty Lawson’s injury. Considering his second half performance against LSU, and his efficiently explosive 27 minutes against Gonzaga, I think we can remove his injury from the list of concerns for the Tar Heels. Said Gonzaga’s Josh Heytvelt after last night’s loss to Carolina:

“If they play like that, they’re going to win the national championship,” Gonzaga’s Josh Heytvelt said. “They’d hit every shot, it seemed like. You can’t do anything on teams like that.”

I’m not ready to go quite that far yet, but it’s hard to argue with Hytvelt’s sentiment.

I predicted North Carolina to reach the title game, but to lose to UConn. And whether or not UConn ends up winning, I have a hard time believing this year’s national champion won’t come from one of the four Big East teams remaining. But North Carolina is the one team I think can compete with the Big East badasses that are still standing.

And I certainly think they can, and will, beat Oklahoma.

Blake Griffin will no doubt have a great game and give his all in trying to keep Oklahoma in it, but I think North Carolina pulls away in the second half and wins this one by 10 or 11 to cover the spread and move on to Detroit.

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About the Author

Jerod Morris

I love words. I write for Copyblogger and founded MSF, The Assembly Call, & Primility. I practice yoga, eat well, & strive for balance. I love life. Namaste. Say hi on Twitter, Facebook, & G+.