3. North Carolina

In elementary school the biggest sin was swearing. In middle school swearing was upgraded to smoking cigarettes. In high school it was underage drinking.

Don’t swear. Don’t smoke. Don’t drink. Follow these rules and you’re a good kid. Break these rules and beware of being labeled the “bad boy” or the “dangerous girl” in the parental gossip circles.

Then comes college and all hell breaks loose. Whether you came in as a “good kid” or “bad kid”, there’s almost no avoiding the bad, the weird, the fun, the questionable, the slightly awesome decisions out there to be made.

If you made it through college without ever doing any of the following: getting drunk, smoking, streaking across campus (nude or in your underwear), waking up in a place you didn’t remember ever arriving at, sleeping through a class, sleeping in a class, skipping a class because you wanted to go to the beach or being involved in at least two cell phone videos that you wouldn’t want to watch 10 years later, then I hate to say it, but I think you missed out.

Like that one episode of South Park said, “There’s a time and a place for everything and it’s called college.”

The college years are the four most forgiving years of life.

For example, if you are found passed out on a fraternity house lawn at age 19, your peers will post the photo online and move on. Get found passed out on the same lawn at age 45, what is wrong with this guy?

As a college freshman, it’s a hilarious story to tell your friends. At age 45 you could lose your job over it.

I feel like North Carolina is the the third grader who told his teacher, “This is bullshit” and got sent to the principal’s office. Or the seventh grader who smoked cigarettes after school. Or the high schooler who got drunk and puked at a dance party.

At the time, oh man, that kid is absolute trouble! Now? Those don’t seem that bad at all.

As life goes on and everyone has moments/decisions they are not proud of, that “bad kid” from junior high is no longer bad at all. He was just a kid.

In sports, as in life, you don’t have to be perfect or even try to be perfect. Being perfect, like Wichita State, becomes even more stressful. If they lose in the tournament, the disappointment is far more severe than having an off night back in December.

North Carolina’s “bad” losses to Belmont, UAB, Wake Forest and Miami all took place before February. These don’t look as bad now since other teams caught up with bad losses of their own. Plus Belmont ended up being a pretty solid mid-major team.

Every team, besides Wichita State, has blemishes now. What the other teams don’t have are North Carolina’s four extremely quality wins. Michigan State (when they were #1). Louisville (when they were #3). Duke (when they were #5). Kentucky (when they were #11).

That is why North Carolina is No. 3 on this list. Oklahoma State could beat any team on the bracket, UNC has beaten the top tier opponents. I was going to put them at No. 1 because of their potential, but the Pittsburgh loss in the ACC Tournament reminded me of the same frustrating truth of every other team on this list: they could lose first round.

Q: Ok, so now that I’ve received a weird lecture on why making mistakes is ok and pretty sure you just encouraged every college kid to go out and make mistakes, can I get some actual analysis on the UNC roster?

North Carolina’s motor is point guard Marcus Paige. He has been consistent all year long averaging 17.4 ppg and dishing out about four assists per contest.

James Michael McAdoo is having a decent season. He’s victim of there being huge expectations after his freshman year, not having a breakout sophomore season and putting up quality but not great numbers as a junior.

Why Pick North Carolina?

Usually with Roy Williams teams, dating back to when he was head coach at Kansas, the strategy seemed to always be, “We’re gonna get out and run, play ok defense and try and win games in the 80’s/90’s.” This year’s North Carolina team plays better defense and can win in a variety of ways. They held the Spartans to 65 points and in their win against Duke, held Coach K’s team to 66.

If you want to take the Tar Heels to the Final Four, you are absolutely validated in doing so. It’s not crazy, they have the wins to back it up. I would, however, advise against picking them to lose first round. Those early ACC losses? This team has grown up since then. Roy Williams will have them ready and I feel pretty good about a Sweet 16 run for the Tar Heels.

As for anyone going off to college, I’ll echo the wisdom of Dr. Frazee:

“It’s alright to get a little bit crazy, just don’t do anything stupid.”