03/24/2007 12:00AM

Georgetown can beat UNC outright


LAS VEGAS - Thursday and Friday's regional semifinal games were won in similar style. On Thursday, No. 1 seeds Kansas and Ohio St. survived scares to advance to the Elite Eight. On Friday, defending champion Florida and North Carolina did the same.

Florida, the No. 1 seed in the Midwest, trailed No. 5 Butler by as many as nine points but came back to win 65-57. The Gators were favored by 10 1/2 points, so just like Kansas and Ohio St., they became the third straight No. 1 seed to win but not cover the spread in the round of 16. Later in the night, East No. 1 seed North Carolina rallied from 16 points down to not only beat USC, but ended up covering the 8 1/2-point spread with a 74-64 victory.

North Carolina will now face No. 2 seed Georgetown, which survived a scare of its own in a controversial 66-65 non-covering win over Vanderbilt. Florida takes on Oregon, which looked in complete control vs. UNLV before holding off a late rally, barely covering the 3-point spread with two late free throws in a 76-72 victory.

Overall, favorites and underdogs split the four Friday games with favorites holding a 29-23-4 edge heading into the regional finals. Unders came through in three of the four Friday games, lifting unders to an overall mark of 29-26-1.

Here's a look at Sunday's two regional finals.

Georgetown (+3 1/2) vs. North Carolina

At East Rutherford, N.J.

USC's defense did a great job on North Carolina's offense until a questionable foul call sent Taj Gibson to the bench and led to the pivotal 18-0 run by the Tar Heels. Georgetown's Roy Hibbert should have the same success and can go toe-to-toe with North Carolina's Tyler Hansborough, and the Hoyas match up fine at the other positions as well. I've felt along that Georgetown is the better overall team in this regional and this is the game where they have to prove it. Taking the points is a little insurance.

PLAY: Georgetown for 2 units.

Oregon (+6 1/2) vs. Florida

At St. Louis, Mo.

I had my doubts about Butler being able to hang with a much bigger Florida team, but if Butler could do it, Oregon can, too. Oregon is the lone No. 3 seed left with the other three matchups being 1 vs. 2, so it's not often you have a Cinderella that is so highly regarded. The Ducks won the Pac-10 Conference tournament and have certainly been flattered by the postseason runs of UCLA and USC. Florida is the reigning champ and has shown the heart of a champ while surviving with a bulls-eye on its back, but like all the games Thursday and Friday, I see these coming down to the final minutes, too.

PLAY: Oregon for 1 unit.

Friday's result: 0-1 on 2-unit loss with USC +8 1/2 vs. North Carolina for a net loss of 2.2. units. NCAA tourney bankroll record: 8-12, including 1-2 on 2-units plays, for a net loss of 6.4 units. Record in all games through Thursday: 29-26-1.