No shockers in the Final Four, although some people might be surprised that Michigan State knocked off UConn, although they probably shouldn't be.
UConn is still playing without a starting guard, who was injured late in the season, but that's not the big thing, because however he got it, Jim Calhoun has plenty of talent.
The big thing is the heart of Michigan State. And really, it's not just this team, it's this program. Tom Izzo complains every year that his program isn't recognized as one of the elite programs around. Well, it is by us. He's built a monster in East Lansing, and a team that's consistently
excellent. They took the game to UConn and played with more passion and heart that Calhoun's team had.
And as much as we respect his on-court accomplishments, his great teams have been largely reflective of two great talents: Khalid El-Amin and...Emeka Okafor
Each took a good team to greatness. A lot of it was naturally coaching. A lot of it, too, was the willpower of two exceptional leaders. That wasn't the case this time.
If Hasheem Thabeet was meant to be the leader of his team, he wasn't particularly cut out for the role. We were half-hoping that UConn would win so that we could see what would transpire between Thabeet and Tyler Hansbrough, a big man he had earlier ridiculed, particularly after watching
DeJuan Blair turn Thabeet into a beachball.
As it turned out, only UNC kept the date, bouncing Villanova with relative ease. They did cut the lead to five points in the second half, but UNC dominated the Wildcats. They held 'Nova to 32% for the game, with only
Dante Cunningham getting anywhere near 50%. Dwayne Anderson was 2-12. Scottie Reynolds? 6-18.
We take it back - Reggie Redding was 5-9. But Corey Fisher ws 5-19.
UNC forced them into shooting three points shots, and they hoisted 27, making only five.
It's a bit surprising that they managed to really hurt Deon Thompson, Tyler Hansbrough, and Danny Green from the floor, but Ty Lawson and Wayne Ellington made up for that, combining for 44 points. We thought that Villanova's
backcourt was tougher than that, and that UNC would struggle more on the perimeter than inside. So much for that notion.
In another somewhat concerning sign, the Heels shot just 59.5% from the line.
Whatever. They won, and between UNC and Michigan State, they shut the Big East out of the title game. Since not too long ago a number of supposedly sober-minded people were predicting an all-Big East Final Four, that's pretty cool.
Now UNC gets a very well coached Michigan State team, one that they've seen before and beat by 35 in the ACC-Big Ten Challenge. It's not what you'd want to see, really, if you're UNC, least of all with the Spartans playing very
They won't have to do a lot of scouting; they can just watch their own horrible tape. If a 35-pooint loss isn't sufficient, perhaps playing in Detroit will help.
As we all know, the American auto industry is in dire straits, and Detroit is in real trouble. Michigan State has a chance to play for a cause, as Calhoun pointed out after the game, and that is a powerful incentive. Powerful enough to get 36 points better?
We're not sold either way, but we will say this: earlier, UNC was not playing like a championship team. As of now, they definitely are.
We'll see what happens Monday. That is, as they say, why they play the games.
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