Four teams, four stories:
North Carolina: The preseason favorite lives up to the hype.
Connecticut: The Big East's biggest bully.
Michigan State: Take a heavyweight punch, then keep coming.
Villanova: Sneaking in while the big guns annihilate each other.
I like this Final Four. There's nobody you can say doesn't belong there. Just keep it to yourself that none of these teams made the finals of their conference tournaments.
First, let's deal with UConn at Michigan State (yes, it's a home game for Sparty - they're not curtaining off any of Ford Field).
I correectly picked three of the Final Four, but Michigan State is the traditional Team I Didn't Think Would Survive Round 2 which always crashes the party. The Spartans' chances come down to two questions: does Goran Suton lure Hasheem Thabeet out of the lane? If not, does State's army of outside shooters connect like it did in the second half against Louisville?
Being consistent, I'll say no. UConn will defend threes more aggressively than Louisville did, I trust. With State defending doggedly and aggressively, Jeff Adrien becomes the key player in the game - if Thabeet stays out of foul trouble and he and Suton play to a stalemate, i'm not sure State has an answer for him. And I suspect a Jim Calhoun team is unafraid of any opponent's home court advantage...even one of the biggest ever.
CONNECTICUT 70, MICHIGAN STATE 64.
I was certainly wrong Sunday. I expected Tyler Hansbrough to break out offensively against Oklahoma, and he didn't. Still, the defense was there - Blake Griffin made his numbers, but needed 11 1/2 minutes to score, and the Tar Heels were on their way by then.
The Villanova interior held up well against Pittsburgh's muscle, but can't match Carolina's speed for 40 minutes. The Wildcats will stay in the game as long as Scottie Reynolds and his posse can chuck threes, but the fresh bodies Roy Williams can throw at them will take their toll eventually. Nobody has kept up with the pace Ty Lawson's been pushing throughout the tournament.
All Roy needs to do pregame is write "40-12" on the blackboard. That's the inexplicable hole the Heels found themselves in against Kansas a year ago. They're too tough and experienced to let it happen again.
NORTH CAROLINA 88, VILLANOVA 75.