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Sunday, March 4, 2012
UNC, Will Barton take home weekly awards

By Andy Katz

Championship Week began with automatic bids handed out Saturday. But we still need to close the book on the last full week of the regular season (save the critical Penn-Princeton game Tuesday night).

Team of the week: North Carolina

The Tar Heels firmly put themselves in the national-title conversation with a dominating performance at Duke on Saturday night. The game ended as an 18-point victory for North Carolina, but it could have been even worse.

The Heels were the aggressors from the opening tip. Every time you looked up, a Carolina player was going to the basket. P.J. Hairston, John Henson, James Michael McAdoo and Tyler Zeller all were looking to get to the basket, flush, finish and possibly get fouled. Kendall Marshall didn’t hesitate to look for his shot, either. He finished with 20 points to complement his stellar work as the top playmaker among title contenders.

UNC won’t have to make 3s if it continues to push toward the hoop on the first shot and on the offensive backboard. Zeller, Henson, Marshall and Harrison Barnes have elevated their games in the past few weeks. The Tar Heels have been pushed plenty of times -- twice against Virginia, at Miami, at NC State, etc.

But North Carolina now enters the NCAA tournament, regardless of what happens this week in the ACC tournament, as an equal title favorite with Kentucky and Syracuse.

Player of the week: Will Barton, Memphis

The Tigers have been flying under the radar for quite some time but won Conference USA with a win at Tulsa on Saturday. Barton was one of the main reasons for the victory. He scored 30 points and grabbed nine boards, and was efficient from the field, making 12 of 17 shots and nailing a pair of 3s. He also got to the line plenty.

Earlier in the week, in what appeared to be a league showdown, Barton helped the Tigers smash Central Florida by 29 points with 18 points and 11 boards. He finished the regular season averaging 18.7 points and 8.1 rebounds per game. The Tigers haven’t been ranked since the first month of the season, and C-USA doesn’t get much love. But Memphis is a sneaky good team heading into the NCAA tournament, and Barton could end up being a star on the NCAA stage.