CHARLOTTE, N.C. -- Quick hitters to get ready for the two games on Sunday:
1. Washington’s Isaiah Thomas is relishing playing North Carolina in Charlotte, where the Tar Heels will be the decided favorite. "The best player to ever play the game went there -- and then they've got a lot of legendary players. It's basically every kid's dream school," Thomas said to a group of reporters Saturday. "I mean, to go to North Carolina or play against them, it's legendary."
2. The Huskies and Tar Heels, who will play in the first game of the day, want to run so expect this game to be in the 80s, if not higher. But the key from Washington’s standpoint is whether or not it can rebound with the Tar Heels’ big three of Harrison Barnes, John Henson and Tyler Zeller.
3. Duke coach Mike Krzyzewski said Henson could be one of the more disruptive defensive players in the game. Washington coach Lorenzo Romar concurred, saying that the first thing that struck him while watching the Tar Heels in-person on Friday was their length.
4. North Carolina coach Roy Williams heaped plenty of praise on Thomas, saying he was one of the best point guards in the country and that he has a tremendous impact on the game. Thomas will have to be a game-changer to beat the Tar Heels in this environment.
5. Duke guard Kyrie Irving said his right toe felt fine after he played 20 minutes and scored a team-high 14 points in the win over Hampton on Friday. The toe is no longer an issue. And neither are any chemistry issues. Irving is enjoying his new role of coming off the bench. Duke guard Seth Curry, who took Irving’s starting spot once he went down on Dec. 4, said there is now no drop off from the bench.
6. The common phrase from the Michigan assistants in the locker room Saturday was that the Wolverines were playing with house money. Michigan expects a completely different effort level from Duke than the one it got from Tennessee. The Blue Devils will be right up on Michigan’s guards from the outset.
7. The Blue Devils have the advantage inside with Kyle Singler, Mason and Miles Plumlee and Ryan Kelly. If the Wolverines are going to win, they’ve got to somehow negate Duke’s size. The problem is that Duke will make it difficult for Michigan to get more than one shot per possession.
8. Duke is prepared to see a mix of defenses from Michigan. The Wolverines have only flirted with the vaunted 1-3-1 this season. But they will use it during the game to see how the Blue Devils react.
9. This will be a huge test for Michigan guards Tim Hardaway Jr. and Darius Morris. The young Wolverines backcourt hasn’t faced a trio like Nolan Smith, Irving and Curry this season, at least not a trio playing this well.
10. The pressure is clearly on the two ACC teams. Washington had to go on a late regular-season run and win the Pac-10 tournament to ensure a berth and is playing a road game. Michigan wasn’t projected to go to the NIT, let alone the NCAA, in the preseason. North Carolina will have the most decided home-court advantage of any of the eight sites, more so than Ohio State in Cleveland. Duke is now the prohibitive favorite with the addition of Irving. In hindsight, one could argue that the Blue Devils caught a break by being in the West, although they could meet No. 1 overall seed Ohio State in the national semifinals.