The Final Four is set

Posted by BrianBoru at 3/30/2009 12:58 AM EDT

If your bracket is still intact, maybe you ought to start playing the lottery.

Undoubtedly, the most surprising upset of the NCAA Tournament occurred today as the gritty Michigan State Spartans thoroughly baffled the University of Louisville Cardinals.

Yes, earlier this week, I picked the Cardinals to win it all next Monday in Detroit. I didn't expect them to exhaust all their offensive output on a mediocre Arizona club in the Regional Semifinals.

Nevertheless, Michigan State deserves a lot of credit for its landslide victory. With today's win, Spartans head coach Tom Izzo will be making his fifth trip to the Final Four - he's also collected a National Title. Izzo's team is not pretty; indeed, they play a boring style of basketball. But they control the glass and play stingy defense. But make no mistake about it - this Spartans team has plenty of talent and will torment you all afternoon long if you sleep on them.

Incidentally, would that Notre Dame head coach Mike Brey begin to tailor his basketball philosophy after this model. Listen to your constituents, Mr. Brey: they're clamoring for defense!

Today's stunning defeat now makes the Louisville Cardinals the biggest flop of March Madness. How does a team full of athletes so supremely gifted, coming off a 39-point drubbing of Arizona, simply roll over and die? Playing his last game in a Louisville uniform, senior forward Terrence Williams had this to say, "they were the better team." - not exactly what Head Coach Rick Pitino wants to hear his team leader say following an embarrassing defeat in the NCAA Tournament.

In the day's other Regional Final, The University of North Carolina Tarheels triumphed over the Oklahoma Sooners leading from start to finish to earn a berth into Saturday's Final Four where they will play the Villanova Wildcats.

Despite receiving little help from his teammates, Sooners forward Blake Griffin did not disappoint, dominating Tyler Hansbrough all game finishing with 23 points and 16 rebounds. Watching this game I was impressed by the brute strength Griffin displayed, once nearly ripping Hansbrough's shoulder off while yanking a rebound. Griffin also has adhesive for hands, making even the difficult entry passes seem routine. Only a sophomore, I'd say Griffin is a pretty sure bet to declare for the NBA Draft - where he'll likely be selected with the No. 1 pick.

But while many were expecting a Hansbrough/Griffin showdown, the game belonged to point guard Ty Lawson. Lawson appears as a blur on the court; once you spot him he's already by you and at the rim. For what it's worth, with Lawson fully recovered, I am selecting the Tarheels as my new choice to win it all. Beware North Carolina - this is a jinx.

I think the Tarheels will have enough to get by the plucky Villanova Wildcats on Saturday evening. Which team they'll play, however, I have no idea. In the other game, I can't pick against Tom Izzo - he's won too many big games. Yet Connecticut has scads of athletes. And head coach Jim Calhoun is no stranger to winning titles - as he has two on his resume. It promises to be a good game - which, generally, means it will be a blowout.

By the way, Notre Dame fans - particularly Notre Dame fans in New York City - please support the Fighting Irish as they take on the Penn State Nittany Lions at Madison Square Garden this Tuesday evening. Game time is 9 pm.

Sure, the season has been somewhat of a train wreck. But the team deserves respect for battling back in true Fighting Irish fashion to mitigate the disappointment of missing a bid to the NCAA Tournament.

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