Well, the Throwdown in Motown is hours away and it should be an interesting duo of battles between two favorites and two upstarts, one of which will hold a pretty serious homecourt advantage. But enough of that.
No. 2 Michigan State vs. No. 1 Connecticut
And here is the home team. The Spartans will have much of the crowd at Ford Field in their corner, with East Lansing just over an hour from downtown Detroit. That fan support is very necessary, as Michigan State finds itself playing a UConn team that has been extremely consistent and effective throughout the tournament. Missouri took a lead early in the second half against the Huskies, which is the only time that UConn has really been pressured in this tournament.
The best hope that Sparty has (besides the crowd support) is to get Hasheem Thabeet in foul trouble. I feel like a broken record mentioning that, as I’m pretty sure I have for every UConn game, but without Thabeet’s 7-foot-3-inch presence, UConn is different inside and Michigan State has the depth in bigs to exploit it. It’ll need to, as the Spartans will have a tough matchup on the perimeter against UConn point guard A.J. Price and freshman shooting guard Kemba Walker. I see MSU hanging tough but the Huskies will be too much.
No. 3 Villanova at No. 1 North Carolina
When the Tar Heels won the title four years ago, Villanova was the team that came the closest to knocking them off. In fact, a questionable traveling call on Allan Ray in the final minute was the kill shot to the Wildcats as North Carolina escaped with a 67-66 victory. There’s no question that Villanova coach Jay Wright has been replaying that final minute, and that near-miss, in his head all week.
As far as this matchup is concerned, Villanova has the guard play to hang with UNC’s Wayne Ellington and Ty Lawson. The Coreys (Stokes and Fisher) and Scottie Reynolds should be a good matchup for UNC. However, the problem teams face with the Tar Heels is that their scoring can come from anywhere. Oklahoma was able to neutralize Tyler Hansbrough’s offense in the regional final, only to be bombarded by Ellington, Lawson and Danny Green. The Tar Heels bring offense from all points and its almost impossible to neutralize it all.
Pick: North Carolina