Andrew Skwara's answer: Tyler Zeller's season-ending wrist injury and the uncertain status of Tyler Hansbrough make me a little hesitant about penciling in North Carolina as the winner. UNC didn't need Hansbrough to beat Kentucky. Honestly, the Tar Heels didn't need Zeller, either. But Notre Dame and Texas, one of which will almost certainly face the Tar Heels in the final, are much better than Kentucky. If Hansbrough plays, I have to go with the Heels. But if not, I like the Longhorns. They have great size and depth in the frontcourt and would dominate the boards without "Psycho-T" in the lineup.
Bob McClellan's answer:
It's a little crazy, but I'm sticking with the Tar Heels. They're an easy pick if Hansbrough plays, but I still think they can win it even without the Tylers. Forward Deon Thompson has been sensational through two games for coach Roy Williams. He's leading the team in scoring (18.5 ppg) and is second in rebounding (8.0) and field-goal percentage (.630). Sometimes guys just need the opportunity to shine, and those chances don't come often when you're playing next to the national player of the year. But someone has to step up in Hansbrough's absence, and so far just about everyone has. Freshman forward Ed Davis leads the Heels in rebounding (12 per game) and field-goal percentage (.700). Guard Ty Lawson has shot the ball horribly (.227), but he has 14 assists, five steals and just four turnovers so far. Swingman Danny Green has seven assists and no turnovers and is shooting 58 percent. Guard Wayne Ellington is averaging 14.5 ppg. The tournament sets up best for North Carolina, which should breeze to the final, where it will await the winner of a Texas-Notre Dame matchup. Be it the Longhorns or the Fighting Irish they'll enter the final bruised and winded. The Tar Heels will be eager to prove they're much more than just Hansbrough.
Mike Huguenin's answer:
North Carolina will be in the final because its half of the bracket is weak. Will Notre Dame or Texas be on the other sideline in the final? If it's Notre Dame, I like the Irish ? behind Luke Harangody ? to win the tournament. If it's Texas, I like the Tar Heels even without an injured Hansbrough. (Wouldn't a Hansbrough-Harangody matchup be fun to watch?) UNC is far from a one-man team, and the Heels have the talent to win in Maui even without Hansbrough. I just think the Heels without Hansbrough would struggle more against the Irish than against the Longhorns.
Greg Anthony's answer:
I still like the Heels to reach the final, but I'm going with Notre Dame. The Irish have the best passing team in the country and great balance offensively. Harangody looks poised to have a monster year, and he'll create a lot of problems for Carolina's bigs, especially if Hansbrough is out or not 100 percent. Guard play will be important, and I really believe that Tory Jackson and Kyle McAlarney are underrated. Their decision-making is what makes them special. The Irish don't have a lot of wasted possessions because of it. Texas is very talented and will challenge for the Big 12 title, but guard play - specifically the experiment with A.J. Abrams at the point - could make it a little dicey early on until they reach a comfort level with that transition. My bottom line is Texas and UNC are excellent teams, but the Irish are ahead of them at this stage of the season.