Saturday, April 4, 2009
Previewing the Final Four
NORTH CAROLINA TAR HEELS
ROLLING INTO DETROIT: North Carolina has won each of their tournament games by at least 12 points. Aside from a second half deficit against LSU in the second round, the Tar Heels really haven't been threatened.
THE BAGGAGE: The Tar Heels have had very bad outs the last three NCAA Tournaments. In 2006, George Mason bit them in the second round. In 2007, they let a late double-digit lead over Georgetown get away in the Elite Eight after a monumental meltdown. Last year, Kansas jumped all over them with a 40-12 lead in the Final Four.
THE ENGINE: Ty Lawson has been the best player of the tournament. He makes the Heels go and it is a must that he has a great game against Villanova.
THE EXTRA FEATURE: Danny Green. Green is a stat sheet stuffer. He is the one Tar Heel that can be as deadly at the three-point arc as he is around the basket. He blocks shots, dishes out assists and dives after loose balls.
OUTLOOK: The Tar Heels are the favorites ... but they've been in this position before and come up short. I think the amount of talent these Heels have is just too much to overcome.
ROLLING INTO DETROIT: Nova is the de-facto Cinderella in this Final Four. They are reliving the glory of their last Final Four appearance in 1985. Scottie Reynolds' shot to beat Pitt in the East Regional Finals has many Wildcat fans believing they are a team of destiny again.
THE BAGGAGE: This is by far the least experienced team in the Final Four. Jay Wright is a great coach but this is his first trip this far. Roy Williams and Tom Izzo have made a habit of getting here while Jim Calhoun has never lost a Final Four game. The other three have championships already.
THE ENGINE: Scotty Reynolds must be able to neutralize Ty Lawson if Nova has any shot at beating North Carolina. UNC has had difficulties shutting down penetrating guards and Reynolds can bring it.
THE EXTRA FEATURE: Dante Cunningham has been one of the most improved players in the nation. He'll be so important against a formidable Tar Heel front line.
OUTLOOK: Nova has had a great run but that front line for the Tar Heels will be just too much for the Wildcats to overcome.
ROLLING INTO DETROIT: The Huskies were the tournament's biggest bullies for the first half of the dance. This team is athletic, deep and strong.
THE BAGGAGE: UConn has gotten a reputation of being a little soft. Pitt pushed them around twice and there are times when Hasheem Thabeet hasn't looked like he was all there. Michigan State will bang with the best of them and it will interesting to see how the Huskies fight back. Also, these recruiting violations have put a damper on this run.
THE ENGINE: Hasheem Thabeet is the star of this team. No one left can match the defensive presence he brings every game. Thabeet will need to shine in Detroit as he will be facing a hot Goran Suton tonight and could face that vaunted Carolina frontline on Monday.
THE EXTRA FEATURE: A.J. Price is the glue. He is their most consistent perimeter player and he will be counted on to speed the game up. He has a big skill set that will cause problems for whomever they play.
OUTLOOK: Expect UConn to be in a fight with Michigan State. The battle between Suton and Thabeet will define this game.
MICHIGAN STATE SPARTANS
ROLLING INTO DETROIT: Not only is Michigan State the first Final Four team to play in state since 1994, they are the only school anywhere close to the Motor City. The Spartans have also become folk heroes who are keeping up the spirits during a bad time in Michigan.
THE BAGGAGE: How good is a home court advantage when the last time you played here was when you were beaten by 35 points? The other teams in the Final Four have elite point guards and come from the perceived best conferences in America.
THE ENGINE: Goran Suton didn't play in that earlier game at Ford Field. He was the difference in State's win over Louisville last weekend. He is a big man who is great at hitting a perimeter shot as well as finding the open man. If he can bring Thabeet away from the basket, it just opens up all kinds of opportunities for the other Spartans.
THE EXTRA FEATURE: Travis Walton is the least known of the lead guards. He will be asked to deal with A.J. Price tonight and then (if they advance) either Ty Lawson or Scottie Reynolds on Monday. He is a physical guy who harrasses opponents to knock them off their games.
OUTLOOK: Michigan State is the type of team that gives UConn troubles. This should be a great game but I am leaning towards the Huskies. That being said, it wouldn't surprise me at all to see the Spartans winning the whole thing.
Brought to you by the Sportz Assassin at 1:11 AM