clock menu more-arrow no yes mobile

Filed under:

The Big Weekend Is Here!

For those of us in the basketball world, Saturday marks something really special:  the Final Four, the tournament of four great champions.  Originally, of course, it was four great champions each coming from a distinctly geographic region, but that's an antiquated concept today.  There as something special about it then as well, though.
This year, it's really hard to comment on the four teams, or rather, it's hard to pick one out of the field.  All four are superb.  UNC was picked at the beginning and regarded as something of a juggernaut.  They had their noses bloodied early, and suffered greatly through injuries, but overcame a lot to get to Detroit.
Villanova has become incredibly impressive.  Their march through their regional featured superb defense and tremendous guard play. They're smaller than most of the rest, but they make up for it with guts, moxie, and teamwork.
Early in the season, Michigan State was whipped by UNC - no great surprise - but also by Maryland, which was a huge surprise, at least to us. They've hung together and improved though and are now a classic Tom Izzo team - balanced, smart, and tough as nails, and a solid team when it comes to rebounding and defense, Izzo's signatures.
Then there's UConn.  During the tournament, scandalous allegations broke about how they recruit.  They are serious enough to truly gut the program.
But that won't happen this weekend, and UConn rolls in with a classic Jim Calhoun team:  deep, athletic, tough, and a shotblocking force.  That would mostly be Hasheem Thabeet, of course, as the 7-3 big man has become one of the great shotblockers of recent times.  Jim Boeheim put him above Dikembe Mutombo and Alonzo Mourning, which is pretty incredible, since both of those guys were incredible shotblockers in their day.
We always say bet on experience, coaching, defense and guards, and certainly you can't overlook overall talent.
We're not sure anyone is playing better as a team, or defensively, than Villanova, and arguably, UNC is the worst defensive team here, though that has to be qualified, since the Heels are playing well on defense now too.
So it's a very tough call.  We're going to go with UNC over Villanova, although barely, and UConn over Michigan State, also barely.  With the crisis in the auto industry, Michigan State, playing in Detroit, has a huge emotional edge.
And in the Monday night finale, we'll take UConn for the following reasons:
1) Thabeet poses a unique challenge for Tyler Hansbrough and their other big men
2) they match up reasonably well with UNC across the board although we're not sure anyone at this point can answer Ty Lawson
3) They get a chip on their shoulder over the allegations.  Calhoun has already said he's considering retirement.  UConn may be guilty as sin - in our opinion they are - but something like this can be used to draw a team even closer.
We'll see how it pans out shortly.