Henrietta Green, a junior at Cajon, won the all-around state gymnastics championship this past weekend and was selected as one of seven athletes to represent California in the Regional Championships April 17-19 in Sacramento.
Green won the all-around competition with a combined score of 37.850. She took first in the floor exercise (9.525), second in the balance beam (9.45) and uneven bars (9.55) and third in the vault (9.325).
Might as well get this over with now. I’m definitely torn though. As a Michigan graduate, the thought of Michigan State winning and talking copious amounts of crap (which Spartans do even when they lose to U of M, there’s some chromosomal defect among Spartans that make them immune to humility or rational thought, but I digress) annoys me, but it would also net me $600. Not being independently wealthy, I could use that chunk of change. So there’s my moral dilemma. On that note, here we go…
No. 2 Michigan State vs. No. 1 North Carolina
On the surface, this should be an easy win for the Tar Heels. Carolina has boatraced through this tourney, winning each and every game by double digits. They embarrassed the Spartans by 35 points in December in Detroit and there’s no real indication that they’ve gotten worse. They can run all day, shoot from the perimeter with Wayne Ellington and Danny Green, have one of the best point guards in the nation in Ty Lawson and have a brawler who can score inside in Tyler Hansbrough – who wasn’t at full strength in December.
However, the Spartans will have a lot more of a home court advantage in Detroit this time than they did in December. They’ll have Goran Suton back and a deeper bench. And they’ll also have confidence, as they’ve already upset Louisville and UConn in their previous two games. Along with the cliche’, tired ‘win one for the struggling state of Michigan’ storyline that the media is thrusting down everyone’s throat and voila, MSU should be a team to be reckoned with.
The Spartans need to win how they did against Louisville, with a slower, half-court tough defensive outlook. If they push the tempo, which they did against UConn, they’ll be run right out of Detroit by the Tar Heels. But Tom Izzo already knows that I’m sure.
So can Michigan State win? Sure, if it controls the glass, keeps the pace deliberate and the Tar Heels allow the Detroit green and white frenzy to get into their heads. But will they win? I say no. Roy Williams is no stranger at winning titles in hostile arenas – he beat Illinois in 2005 in front of a decidedly pro-Illini crowd in St. Louis – and I can’t imagine that UNC will be intimdated by the surroundings. UNC has the most talented team in the field and they won’t be overlooking a Spartan team, despite the earlier blowout, in a game of this magnitude. MSU will keep it relatively close, but too much Carolina in my opinion.
Pick: North Carolina
Last year I picked the Cleveland Indians to win the World Series. So consider that before putting any relevance on this writeup. So now that you are warned, let’s get this on.
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