The 2009 Volume of the NCAA Tournament nears its final chapter. How will this year’s story end? Can Tyler Hansbrough end his illustrious college career as an NCAA champion? Or will UConn overcome injuries and off-court issues to be number one? Will Michigan State capture glory at home? Are the Wildcats destined for greatness?
Here is how I see the Final Four Match-Ups:
North Carolina (1) vs Villanova (3)
North Carolina is the offensive dynamo of this quartet, averaging 88 points and 45% 3FG per game. All-American Tyler Hansbrough, rejuvenated point guard Ty Lawson and guard/forward Danny Greene have been a wrecking crew in the tournament, delivering an elite 8 crushing blow to player of the year favorite Blake Griffin and his Oklahoma Sooners 72-60.
Villanova reached the round of four by snatching victory from the jaws of the Pittsburgh Panthers in their Eastern Regional Final showdown 78-76 . Nova’s Scottie Reynolds’ game winner against their division rivals with 0.5 seconds left has entered the pantheon of NCAA clutch shots. The Wildcats will count on the cunning, quickness, athleticism and solid defense of guard Reynolds, forward Dante Cunningham, and guard/forward Derek Anderson to help Villanova continue its fairytale run.
My Pick: North Carolina
Connecticut (1) vs. Michigan State (2)
UConn has twice made it past the regionals in Phoenix, becoming national champions in 1999 and 2004. The Huskies find themselves in the same position this year. Ranking first in tournament team defense, assist to turnover ratio and second in scoring, Jim Calhoun’s squad appears, statistically, the team to beat.The Huskies are anchored by center Hashem Thabeet, led by guard A.J. Price, and steadied by forwards Jeff Adrien and Stanley Robinson. Freshman guard Kemba Walker contributed a game-high 23 points and five assists off the bench in the Huskies 82-75 defeat of Missouri last weekend.
With a 64-52 upset of #1 seed and office pool favorite Louisville in their Elite 8 contest, the Spartans proved that they are for real. Physical play and defense are trademarks of the team featuring center Greg Suton, guards Kalin Lucas, and Durell Summers. Offense is a non- issue as the Spartans’ scoring output is ranked 27th in the tournament. A team’s heart and spirit cannot be Tabulated in this case.
My Pick: Connecticut