Last year I wrote a piece called “How to Pick North Carolina in Your Bracket.” It was predicated on two simple ideas. One, picking North Carolina to win the national championship in 2015 was a terrible idea. Two, that I was absolutely going to fill out a bracket with North Carolina winning the national championship.
I wasn’t going to write a “How to Pick North Carolina in Your Bracket” column this year. I could lie and say the reason is that I’m above recycling the same schtick but the real reason is that I’m superstitious. I tell people I’m not superstitious because I like to think of myself as a thoroughly rational person. I’m not. I’ve worn the same thing for UNC’s wins versus Miami, Notre Dame and UVA. I also won’t tell you what it was because I don’t want to sap the outfit’s mystical powers. So yeah I’m superstitious and I didn’t wanna jinx a North Carolina title run by writing a piece about UNC winning the title.
Two things changed my mind. First, North Carolina won at Duke, steamrolled Notre Dame, then beat UVA — the Water Temple of basketball teams — in the exact type of game they’ve spent the past three and a half years losing with excruciating consistency. It’s gonna take more than the dumb jokes I’m about to make to bring the Tar Heel train to a halt. Second, Roy Williams wore his hat like this on the podium after winning the ACC Championship. Young Metro definitely trusts Roy Williams and I trust Carolina to overcome any jinx I’m about to lay down.
So without further ado, here is how to pick North Carolina to win the championship in your bracket.
Round of 64: North Carolina beats Florida Gulf Coast
The idea of playing Florida Gulf Coast may seem intimidating at first. It wasn’t that long ago that the Eagles were rim rocking their way to a Sweet Sixteen as a 15 seed. Here’s why you shouldn’t be scared. Trying to run with North Carolina is the basketball equivalent of invading Russia in the winter. The prospect of Florida Gulf Coast trying to run with UNC is the only thing that really makes this game compelling unless you are Stillman White’s mom.
Round of 32: North Carolina beats USC
I have Carolina playing the Trojans here, not because I’m afraid of Kris Dunn and Providence but because Providence is definitely losing to USC in the first round. Every year there is an 8-9 matchup where one team seems really dangerous and the other one seems really bland. Everyone picks the “dangerous” team and the bland team always wins. So congrats in advance to the Trojans for being Amy Adams in this situation. You’ve earned yourself the opportunity to lose by 15 to the Tar Heels in front of nearly 20,000 Carolina fans at PNC Arena.
Also it’s nice that I can type “USC” and it’s just implied I’m talking about the Trojans. You know, because South Carolina didn’t make the tournament. You can never be a winner when you serve mustard based barbecue.
Sweet Sixteen: North Carolina beats Indiana
The natural reaction is to look at this and figure I picked Indiana because I don’t want North Carolina to have to play Kentucky. And that’s true. The Wildcats have a great backcourt and are legitimately scary to any team in the field. But that’s not the reason I picked this game. I picked Indiana because I know if the Tar Heels and Hoosiers meet in the Sweet Sixteen Dan Dakich will spend the week talking about how he shut down Michael Jordan in 1984.
There is a 10000000% chance of that happening if this scenario unfolds. Dakich won’t mention that Jordan outscored him 13 to 4, that he fouled out, or that Dean Smith sat Jordan for the final 12 minutes of the first half after MJ picked up his second foul. He will totally mention how Indiana was a tougher program and how North Carolina is soft. You’ll endure this for a week then bask in the schadenfreude of North Carolina comfortably beating Indiana in the actual game. Then you’ll tweet the following “Man I just don’t think Indiana is a tough program. Dan Dakich.” Dan Dakich will read this tweet because he searches his name on twitter. Then he will block you. Which is good. The world will be a better place with less people exposed to Dan Dakich’s thoughts.
Elite Eight: North Carolina beats Xavier
Honestly I have no clue who will emerge out of the bottom of North Carolina’s bracket. Notre Dame, West Virginia and Wisconsin all seem like teams who could make the Elite Eight or lose in the first round. We’ll just go chalk here and pick Xavier — a solid program who seems to have an established Elite Eight ceiling.
By the way, remember the first time you saw Xavier’s name and were like “Oh cool like the professor in X-Men” and then someone told you it was pronounced “ZAvier” and not “EXavier.” That moment is why Xavier has an Elite Eight ceiling. Never pass up a chance to be associated with the X-Men.
Final Four: North Carolina beats Michigan State
He cannot beat them at his home. He cannot beat them in a dome. He cannot beat them when they dip. He cannot beat them on a ship. Izzo cannot beat them worth a damn. He cannot beat Carolina, Sam I Am.
National Championship: North Carolina beats Oklahoma
There are a ton of options at this point so let’s quickly run through them. Right off the bat Kansas is out. Even with his sideways hat I still don’t like Roy matched up against the Jayhawks. Obviously Duke is out as well. I don’t care that UNC actually matches up well with the Blue Devils. I still want no part of the nuclear winter that would accompany a UNC-Duke title game. Oregon seems like the type of high seed that is at the same time eminently beatable so they aren’t a bad pick. But they aren’t the right pick. The right pick is Oklahoma.
The Sooners boast college basketball’s most lethal scorer in Buddy Hield, so they absolutely have the capacity to catch fire and make a run to the championship. And make no mistake, the way the Sooners shoot from deep they are by no means an easy matchup for North Carolina. But there is one huge reason that Oklahoma can’t win a championship.
They slap the floor. Here’s the thing about slapping the floor. Duke did it for a long time. They actually don’t any more unless they are doing it in response to an opponent already having done it to them. If you’re a team that isn’t Duke and you slap the floor it means you are trying to be Duke. Nothing is worse than trying to be Duke. Trying to be Duke only really works if you are Duke because Duke has Coach K and his devil magic.
The Sooners aren’t Duke, so enjoy watching the Tar Heels beat a bunch of Duke wannabes en route to their sixth NCAA Title.