A Close Look and Breakdown of All Four Remaining Teams

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This years NCAA tournament has had a bit of everything. Upsets, comebacks, memorable plays (see: Scottie Reynolds) the whole nine yards. But as we have worked our way to this Final Four, it has become more obvious that when it comes to the NCAA tournament anything can happen.

 

Now with our Final Four contestants finally confirmed, we commence the breakdown.

 

We’ll start with the Right Side of the Bracket: Villanova vs. North Carolina.

 

Villanova

Coached by Jay Wright, the pesky Wildcats fought their way through a near first round upset (they trailed American University by double digits at half) and preceded to take down three of College basketball’s historical elite (UCLA, Duke and most recently Pittsburgh) to reach the Final Four.

 

Their best player is Point Guard Scottie Reynolds, whose game winning end-to-end gallop will go down in tourney lore, and coach Jay Wright knows that his team wouldn’t be in this position if it weren’t for him.

 

“He is a special kid. I think any of us in coaching that have any success we're all doing the same thing. Some of us get blessed to have special kids, and that's what brings you to these unique situations. You know, you look at Tyler Hansbrough with that team in Carolina, and what he's done since he's been there. And that's what Scottie Reynolds has been for us,” said Wright.

 

The most common misconception about this team is that they cannot win because they have such a small lineup (Their tallest starter, Dante Cunningham is 6’8”). Obviously, that is not the case. They competed in the physically dominant Big East and made their way to the Final Four. That is a major complement to a league that many thought was the best in the country this past year and draws eerie comparisons to 1985, a year when three teams from the Big East made the Final Four.

 

“Conferences go in cycles,” said Wright “That was just such an amazing year in the Big East in '85, and I think this year was the same way. And you look at all the teams that had success in the tournament from the Big East. And now we have two in the Final Four. I really do think maybe this year and (1985) were the two best years ever in the Big East.”

 

This team is going to have to play physical on the boards and keep North Carolina neutral in transition if they want to overcome what could be the most talented UNC team since the Vince Carter-Antawn Jamison era.

 

 

North Carolina

Spartan fans are all too familiar with this college basketball goliath. Coach Roy Williams led his team past formidable opponents LSU, Gonzaga and Oklahoma all in convincing fashion. Last year the Heels fell to Kansas in the Final Four, prompting their four best players (PG Ty Lawson, SG Wayne Ellington, SF Danny Green and PF Tyler Hansbrough) all to return to Chapel Hill for another run at the National Championship.

 

“If Ty had someone who told them he would have gone in the top 15 picks, he would have gone. If Danny and Wayne had been convinced they would be first round picks, they would have gone. They were not convinced of that,” said Williams “So they had a great option. That great option was to come back and win as many games as they could possibly win and have another chance. So after the decision was made for those personal reasons, they did collectively embrace the idea of, hey, we've gotten to the Final Four and didn't play very well last year. Let's see if we can do better this year.”

 

They have certainly won their fair share of games this year, but they would love to get two more W’s and give Tyler Hansbrough the only thing he lacks, a national championship ring.

 

UNC isn’t just a four-man show however. Deon Thompson, Bobby Frasor are great and alongside Freshmen Larry Drew II, Tyler Zeller and Ed Davis (a potential lottery pick), these Heels have arguably the most talent of any team in this years Final Four.

 

If they want to beat Nova they have to win the Ty Lawson-Scottie Reynolds match-up and use their depth to wear down the Cats. If they can do that, there’s very little standing between Roy’s boys and a Ring.

 

Moving to the Left (and more important) side of things: UConn vs. Michigan State.

 

UConn:

Jim Calhoun’s Huskies have lived up to the pre-season hype this year. While they didn’t win either the Big East regular season or Tournament (both those titles went to Louisville…interesting) they did down Chattanooga, smash Texas A&M, befuddle Purdue and break Mizzou’s lethal full-court press, on their way to Detroit.

 

It’s a bird, it’s a plane, no…it’s Hasheem Thabeet! The 7’3” Thabeet is an absolute monster in the middle. He’s undoubtedly the best shot blocker in the country and he probably changes and prevents more shots than he actually blocks due to his massive frame and ridiculously long arms.

 

“He's a hard guy to prepare for,” said MSU coach Tom Izzo “It's a hard guy to simulate in practice, and that their strength and speed, they're athletes. That's probably going to be true. I think the only plus we've had is playing a team that's not as big, but very athletic. A USC team who is very athletic. And Kansas had, you know, a player that, not as big, but a very good post player.”

 

Another key for UConn will be getting PF Stanley Robinson involved early and often against MSU’s tough man-to-man defense. Robinson has finally lived up to his potential throughout this tournament and will draw freshman Draymond Green and Delvon Roe often in their match up. If he can exploit the young guns, he will greatly enhance his team’s chance of winning.

 

Perhaps the biggest X-factor for UConn is their freshman PG Kemba Walker. Walker lit up the Missouri press and really broke the game open with his speed and ability to push the ball. If he can get points off the bench in transition UConn will have a chance to play for the National Title.

 

Michigan State

The home team…and the underdog. MSU is playing at Ford Field for the second time this season and despite having beaten a very good Robert Morris team, a surging USC, the defending national champion Kansas Jayhawks and the #1 overall seed Louisville Cardinals, MSU is perhaps the biggest underdog in this Final Four. But like they say, there’s no place like home, and UConn head coach Jim Calhoun knows that his team will essentially be playing a road game.

 

“We'll have the white uniforms on. That's as close we'll get to being a home team, I think. But bottom line is that clearly when you talk about 72,000, I'm sure there will be 50 or 60,000 Michigan State fans there,” said Calhoun “There's no doubt about it, I'm very aware (of the) fact that there will be a little bit of noise for the guys in green. No question…I'm treating it like a road game, to be quite honest with you.”

 

MSU has all the ingredients of a National Champion. Great depth in both the front and backcourt, strong physical rebounders and a special Point Guard in Kalin Lucas. Thus far in the tournament Lucas has done his best Mateen Cleaves impersonation making game winning shots (Kansas) and dishing out assists like candy (7 against Louisville). But despite his great play, Lucas has been overshadowed by Midwest Region MVP Goran Suton, who reminds Coach Calhoun of another player, this one from the Big East.

 

“We play against Luke Harangody, a terrific player from Notre Dame. He does not go outside as much as Suton does. But nevertheless, he's a similar type player. He just became a terrific, terrific basketball player. I think for Suton he's always been a great player,” said Calhoun “He's a good post player, but he's extended his game now to make him and incredible high post player. He puts pressure on you. He'll make threes. I mean, he will fish you up if you can't follow him. He shoots 85%. And they beat the Louisville team, we know how good they are, coming out of our league, he was special. He wasn't just good the other day. That first half he in my opinion determined and set‑up the whole game because he was so special.”

 

If Suton can control Thabeet down low defensively and make Thabeet respect his outside shooting ability, pulling him away from the basket, while Lucas controls the tempo, makes shots and gets to the basket, this home team may just be special after all.

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