Cory Mccartney
Friday April 3rd, 2009

Villanova (30-7) vs. North Carolina (32-4) Saturday, 8:47 p.m. Ford Field (78,000)

Click here for the breakdown of Michigan State vs. UConn

There was really only one place North Carolina could end its season, wasn't there? With Tyler Hansbrough, Ty Lawson, Wayne Ellington and Danny Green back, the debate wasn't if the Tar Heels would make it to Detroit, but whether they would have a blemish on their record.

UNC is back in the Final Four, the program's record 18th appearance, and if you're scoring at home, the Tar Heels have had their blemishes: four losses, the loss of their best perimeter defender in Marcus Ginyard and Lawson's toe injury, yet here they are with a chance to redeem themselves for last year's loss to Kansas in the semifinals.

While the one-seed Tar Heels were a foregone conclusion to make up one quarter of the Final Four field, their opponent was not.

Villanova was a preseason pick to finish fifth in the Big East after making the Sweet 16 a year ago but landed in the Final Four for the first time since Rollie Massimino's 1985 squad upset Georgetown for the national championship.

The Wildcats' road to Motown has had its share of drama: they were an up-and-down work-in-progress for much of the season and fought to find their footing defensively, losing their first four games against ranked opponents. But they came alive in the tournament after trailing by double digits against American with 13 minutes to go in the first round, going on to rip UCLA by 20, Duke by 23 then winning the most dramatic game of the tournament so far against Pitt in the Elite Eight. No team takes more momentum into Ford Field than Jay Wright's Wildcats.

Villanova's Scottie Reynolds Jr., 6-2, 195 Stats: 15.7 ppg, 3.3 apg

Expect to see Reynolds' floater with 0.5 seconds left against Pitt in the One Shining Moment montage. But despite his heroics, and 12.5 points per game in the tournament, Reynolds is still shooting 34.6 percent from the field in his last two games. The way his counterpart is playing, cold shooting could be costly.

North Carolina's Ty Lawson Jr., 5-11, 195 Stats: 16.3 ppg, 6.5 apg, .485 three-point percentage

Reynolds may have the tourney's defining moment, but Lawson may be its defining player to this point. After missing the first round with a bum toe, Lawson has averaged 20.3 points and 6.6 assists in three games, hitting 7 of 11 threes and committing just two turnovers. His speed off the dribble alone makes him a tough defensive assignment, but the way he's shooting makes him that much scarier.

EDGE: North Carolina

Villanova's Reggie Redding Jr., 6-5, 205 Stats: 6.9 ppg, 5.0 rpg, 3.1 apg

Redding is key to the Wildcats' perimeter defense but he's turned things up offensively in the tournament with double-doubles against UCLA and Duke. He's averaging 8.3 points, 6 rebounds, a team-best 4.3 assists and he's playing more minutes (34.5 per game) than anyone on the roster.

North Carolina's Wayne Ellington Jr., 6-4, 200 Stats: 15.6 ppg, 4.6 rpg

Aside from a nine-point aberration against Oklahoma, Ellington has been stellar in the tournament, averaging 19 points and shooting 56 percent. He's benefited from a shooting slump earlier in the season and has shown the ability to drive to the basket. Minus Ginyard, Ellington is the Heels' best perimeter defender.

EDGE: North Carolina

Villanova's Dwayne Anderson Sr., 6-6, 215 Stats: 9.1 ppg, 6 rpg, 1.6 spg

Anderson finding his rhythm in March is a big reason why the Wildcats are in Motown. The swingman is delivering 15 points and eight boards a game in the tournament and is hitting nearly 50 percent of his shots. He's also the team's emotional leader.

North Carolina's Danny Green Sr., 6-6, 210 Stats: 13.3 ppg, 4.8 rpg, 1.8 spg

Much like Anderson, Green is a jack-of-all trades, supplying UNC with whatever it needs. He's had three games with at least 13 points in the tourney, had 10 boards in the opener and seven assists and four steals against Gonzaga. But most importantly, he's benefiting from Lawson's return like no one else and has hit 11 of his last 20 shots.

EDGE: North Carolina

Villanova's Shane Clark Sr., 6-7, 205 Stats: 5.6 ppg, 3.8 rpg

He makes his name on the defensive side, but Clark has shown he can score when he needs to, coming up with three big threes against Pitt on the way to scoring 11 points for just his sixth double-figure performance of the season. But he needs to stay out of foul trouble for Villanova to win.

North Carolina's Deon Thompson Jr., 6-8, 245 Stats: 10.7 ppg, 5.8 rpg

The role player gets lost among the big-name starters in the Tar Heels lineup. Thompson's production had fallen off in the tournament before he scored 10 points against the Sooners with Hansbrough in foul trouble. On a team full of scorers, his biggest contribution is on the defensive glass.

EDGE: Even

Villanova's Dante Cunningham Sr., 6-8, 230 Stats: 16.2 ppg, 7.4 rpg, 52 percent shooting

The Wildcats' most consistent offensive weapon in the tournament, Cunningham is averaging 17.7 points a game. He has no doubt left NBA teams salivating with his ability to score in a variety of ways, including a jump hook. But his biggest problem is staying out of foul trouble.

North Carolina's Tyler Hansbrough Sr., 6-9, 250 Stats: 20 ppg, 8.1 rpg

It's no stretch to say that Psycho T was completely out of his game against Oklahoma's Blake Griffin, scoring just eight points. That could be trouble for Villanova: the last two times Hansbrough was held to eight points he responded with 31- and 27-point games.

EDGE: North Carolina


It's like a trip back to the 1980s with the two Coreys (Fisher and Stokes) playing substantial minutes for Wright. Fisher averaged 10.5 ppg in March and Stokes is supplying 8.6 ppg in the last three tournament games. But 'Nova is going to need more than guard play against UNC, so expect to see 6-8 sophomore Antonio Pena, who has played 24 minutes in the tournament.

North Carolina

Freshman big Ed Davis (6-10) has taken advantage of a larger role in the tournament, averaging 8.5 points and five boards and there's even more size with 7-foot freshman Tyler Zeller. Williams has also gotten solid contributions from guards Bobby Frasor and Larry Drew III, who have combined for 20 points and nine assists in the first four tourney games.

Edge: Even

Villanova's Jay Wright

The least accomplished of the coaches in Detroit, Wright is the only one without a championship ring -- or any previous Final Four experience for that matter. He often gets more props for his fashion that his Xs and Os but Wright's players simply play for him because of the level of trust he has in them. It's an approach that has allowed him to take a team that lost by 14 points in the Big East semifinals and has it one win from playing for a title.

North Carolina's Roy Williams

When you have two ACC players of the year in Hansbrough and Lawson, it's easy to say that Williams' job is easy but you can't underscore the immense hype this team faced. Williams should get serious props for keeping the Tar Heels focused on the finish line despite the 0-2 start in ACC play, Ginyard's injury and Will Graves' suspension. Plus, the guy is already enshrined in the Hall of Fame.

EDGE: North Carolina

The Pick: North Carolina 85, Villanova 77

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