Final Four Preview
Busted brackets and Britney Spears
By Justin Sanders,
4:57PM, Fri. Apr. 3, 2009
If you’re like me, then your bracket is probably crumbled up and waiting to be thrown in the trash by now. I’m not bitter, but I would like to thank Rick Pitino for not realizing that all the Cardinals had to do to beat Michigan State’s man-to-man defense was spread the floor and create one-on-one matchups. I’d also like to thank Coach K and the Puke She Devils for ruining my bracket in the third round once again, but like I said, I’m not bitter. There are still four teams left, and if you’re like me, you’re probably trying to figure out who to cheer for, so with that in mind, here are four reasons to cheer for each team in the Final Four.
Michigan State: The Blue Collar team dominated Louisville in the Elite 8, not only beating them by 12 points, but also giving them a clinic on how to play defense at the same time.
1) Defense: This team is all about hard-nosed defense, but what makes their D even more suffocating is the fact that they kill other teams on the boards. Tom Izzo stresses blocking-out on missed shots from the moment the season starts, and by tourney time the Spartans defense is cleaning the glass like a maid on meth.
2) Hometown Heroes: The state of Michigan has one of the nation’s highest unemployment rates and the Detroit automaking industry is struggling like a one-legged man in an asskicking contest. The fact that the Final Four is being held in Detroit (only 90 miles from their campus in East Lansing) should bring out the hometown fans in droves, and if there is any justice the Spartans will be cutting down the nets on Monday.
3) Magic Johnson: Since Kentucky didn’t make the tourney this year, Ashley Judd's breasts will not be making an appearance in the Final Four. So why not cheer for Michigan State in hopes that we’ll see 300-pound Magic Johnson jiggling in the stands after every shot! Well, maybe not.
4) Goran Suton: The bigass corn-fed center for the Spartans looks more like a male cheerleader … not that there’s anything wrong with that … but when he gets on the court he is a rebounding machine. His work ethic and team mindset are a perfect example of why the blue collar Spartans are challenging for another Championship.
North Carolina: The most talented team in the Final Four is plain and simply the North Carolina Tar Heels. As a matter of fact, if three of their players hadn’t found out that they weren’t going to be drafted in the first round of last years NBA draft and returned to the team, then the Tar Heels probably wouldn’t even have made it out of the second round of the tournament this year.
1) Tradition of Excellence: Not only did the Tar Heels advance to a record 18th Final Four, their second straight, but they are going for their fifth National Title. From Dean Smith to Roy Williams, North Carolina has a history of winning that dates back to the days when players were wearing nut-huggers and running the 4 corners offense.
2) Already Beat One Team in the Final Four: If it comes down to North Carolina and Michigan State, I wouldn’t bother watching more than the first half on Monday night, because the last time these two teams met up the Tar Heels spanked the Spartans by 35 points. Sure the Spartans have gotten better since then, but that probably will only cut the margin of defeat in half if the two teams meet.
3) Offense: Since losing to Florida State in the ACC Tournament, the Tar Heels have caught fire! Now with a healthy Ty Lawson the Tar Heels have beaten each of their first four tournament opponents by at least 10 points. Don’t look for that to change tonight, or on Monday either.
4) Return of the Jedi: Last years player of the year, Tyler Hansbrough, could have gone pro and been one of the top five picks in the NBA draft, but decided to come back for his senior season to win a title. That’s bad news for the rest of the Final Four and a showdown with Hasheem Thabeet in the finals seems eminent.
Connecticut: Every tournament needs a bully and this year that bully is the University of Connecticut. During the regular season they were bigger, stronger, and more talented than most of their opponents, and even though the talent level has risen in the tournament they’re still the biggest MFers in the Final Four.
1) Hasheem Thabeet: At 7 feet 3 inches it’s hard to suck at basketball, but they’re still guys who have managed the feat, Shawn Bradley comes to mind, but Thabeet never had that problem. The Big East co-player of the year may still be a bit raw when it comes to basketball skills, but like the old adage says, “Height don’t get tired.” Meaning you can have all the talent in the world when it comes to basketball but it still helps to be tall, especially when you’re so freaking tall it looks like you’re playing Nerf Hoop against everybody else!
2) Recent History: The Huskies, under head coach Jim Calhoun, are in the hunt for their third National Title in the last 10 years. UNC may have more, but in the last 10 years it has been Florida and UConn battling for supremacy in college basketball.
3) Trouble Brewing: Connecticut has extra motivation to win the title this year because with alleged major recruiting violations hanging over their heads, the team could be facing serious charges that could result in cut scholarships and postseason ineligibility.
4) Survivor: Jim Calhoun has led UConn to two national titles, battled cancer twice, and is still standing tall with his team threatening to win yet another championship. In Connecticut Jim Calhoun is pretty close to being a god, and if history has taught us anything, it’s going to take more than a team of mere mortals to beat his Huskies!
Villanova: The Wildcats are making their first Final Four trip since Rollie Massimino coached the team to the biggest upset in tournament history when the eighth-seeded Wildcats upset Georgetown in the 1985 title game. Is history repeating itself?
1) Goliath Is Dead: Villanova may be the lowest seed in the Final Four, but that shouldn’t bother them since they’ve already toppled the No. 1 seeded Pitt Panthers last weekend. After giving up a 4-point lead to let Pitt back into the game, Scottie Reynolds shocked the Panthers by driving the length of the court and sinking a runner with a half-second left in the game.
2) No Lead Is Safe: Don’t get worried if the Wildcats get down early in their game against the Tar Heels because they won’t be. Nova was down in the first round to American University by double digits with 13 minutes to play but still managed come back and win the game … comfortably.
3) You Love Me Now Don’t You: At the start of the season there weren’t any players on the Wildcat team that were getting love from the scouts. Now after four games Dante Cunningham and Scottie Reynolds are finally getting the attention that they deserve. North Carolina would be mistaken to overlook the duo now or when they’re playing in the NBA.
4) Underdogs: No one expected the Wildcats to beat Pitt and no one is expecting them to get past North Carolina either, so the team should be about as loose as Britney Spears after six cocktails. Throw in the fact that Villanova is peaking at exactly the right time and I think it’s safe to say that the Cats have a shot!