Ty Lawson was held out of the NCAA college basketball tournament’s first game on  Thursday to rest his injured right big toe. 967-ncaa_lsu_ncarolina_basketbastandaloneprod_affiliate1381 There is no doubt had Lawson not played on Saturday, North Carolina would be watching the rest of March Madness on television.  The final score an 84 – 70 victory over LSU does not begin to tell the story of just how close number one seed North Carolina came to defeat.

I don’t typically pay close attention to college basketball until February.  So while I had heard about and seen highlights of North Carolina’s star point guard Ty Lawson, I hadn’t really taken a good look at him.   But against LSU Saturday night I saw firsthand just how good and important Lawson really is.  He clearly proved why he is the reigning ACC player of the year.

Lawson, who wound up scoring 23 points and dished out 6 assists, took control on a night when second round opponent LSU surged to take a slim lead midway into the second half, a lead which could have stretched into real trouble for North Carolina.  But then suddenly and decisively Lawson made just the right passes and hit the key shots the Tar Heels needed to grab the lead back and eventually cruise to a victory that moments earlier seemed anything but certain.  Simply put, without Lawson, North Carolina would not have beaten LSU.

Much is made of how valuable Lawson’s teammate Tyler Hansbrough is to the Tar Heels.  But this year Hansbrough is no longer North Carolina’s main man.   This is Ty Lawson’s team.  And North Carolina can only hope that Lawson’s injured toe holds up long enough to carry them through the Sweet Sixteen and the remainder of March Madness.

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