North Carolina Tar Heels
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RECORD: 24 - 6
REGION: East SEED: 4
COACH: Sylvia Hatchell CONFERENCE: ACC
Road to the Final Four ...................................................................................
The Tar Heels have all the pieces to the puzzle. They have some young freshmen who are outstanding, players who can push tempo, and enough versatility so that they can go big or small with their lineup. Candace Sutton might be the key, though. The senior needs to be more dominating in the middle. After four years, Sutton needs to do a better job of getting in there and establishing UNC's inside game in a big way.
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Fellow freshman Ivory Latta helps make this team tick, but Little has come up even bigger for the Tar Heels. In the regular season, she led UNC in scoring (14.1 points) and topped the ACC in rebounding (8.2) while shooting 50 percent from the field and tallying seven double-doubles. Little's selection as the ACC Freshman of the Year, therefore, was no surprise, but league coaches also thought the 6-foot-1 forward was good enough to join four seniors on the All-ACC first team. And did we mention she's the only freshman among 48 finalists for Kodak All-America honors?
ANALYSIS BY ESPN'S STACEY DALES-SCHUMAN
Think fast, athletic and young. These are three of the top things that immediately spring to mind when one ponders UNC.
Despite her rookie newcomer status, Ivory Latta has given the Tar Heels some offensive direction, and boy, is she fun to watch. Coach Sylvia Hatchell, one of the winningest teachers of the game and owner of the 1994 national championship, can only smile when she looks out and sees Latta -- perhaps an extension of herself -- and another brilliant phenom in freshman Camille Little. Amazingly, Little has led the entire conference throughout the course of the season with eight boards per game in addition to being the team's top scorer with 14 points. The future is bright for the women of Chapel Hill.
Is it any secret that UNC loves to scrub the boards? With so much athleticsm -- and size in 6-foot-6 senior center Candace Sutton -- it's really no big shock that the Tar Heels outrebound their challengers by almost eight boards and are able to grab 15 at the offensive end. Impressively, the team has four players cumulating more than five rebounds each time out.
With as fast as Carolina plays, however, it's also no wonder the team averages nearly 18 turnovers compared to just 15 assists. That's a stat that could hurt, because we all know that good decision making becomes critical during the rigors of the NCAA Tournament.
Look for Carolina to play an extended defense that forces the opponent to also commit turnovers and play at a fast pace. The Tar Heels thrive on momentum-breaking plays, so opponents must be sure to execute transition back-checking so they don't give up easy layups.
Still, if the Tar Heels can perform with composure when it counts, they have the talent to beat anybody, as they demonstrated earlier this season against a strong Penn State program.