Michigan State Spartans
Two words: Goran Suton. For those unfamiliar with the 6’10” MSU big man, Suton picked apart the defense of Louisville — the nation’s top team — by drawing the Cardinals’ forwards away from the basket with his long-range shooting, opening up passing lanes for Raymar Morgan and jump-shots for shooters Kalin Lucas and Durrell Summers.
Expect Head Coach Tom Izzo to do the same thing Saturday against UConn, with Suton guarded by 7’3” Hasheem Thabeet. The Huskies’ center will struggle defending Suton on the perimeter, and without the shot-blocking presence of Thabeet, Michigan State will attack the basket at will.
Izzo is no stranger to the Final Four — this is the fourth time he has led the Spartans to college basketball’s Promised Land. His experience will pay off big time, and the Spartans will be this year’s champs.
E-mail Miles Hilder at [email protected]
University of Connecticut Huskies
I don’t like the University of Connecticut. Let’s just get that straight. But they will win the national title, even without Jerome Dyson. Guards A.J. Price and Kemba Walker are quick penetrators and capable shooters. Hasheem Thabeet and his no-name frontline teammates simply dominate the paint on both ends of the floor, altering shots and picking up garbage points. Price, Walker, Thabeet, Jeff Adrien and Stanley Robinson are all destined for the NBA. Their strength, athleticism and reslience will carry them past Michigan State and UNC. Coach Jim Calhoun’s sideline experience helps the Huskies too. This title will be his third in 10 years. Expect the Huskies to out-tough and outscore a game Michigan State squad before slowing down UNC’s Ty Lawson in the finale. That game won’t disappoint, especially if Tyler Hansbrough graduates without a championship.
E-mail Andrew Pike at [email protected]
The Villanova Wildcats are too good to be rendered a Cinderella, but not seeded high enough to guarantee a championship. Balanced scoring, staunch defense, and, most of all, a lack of pressure ensures Villanova a finals victory.
Scottie Reynolds displayed his ever-present speed and ability to find the hoop in the final seconds against Pitt, in what has become this year’s best highlight. Reynolds, paired with Dante Cunningham, has caused match-up problems for opposing coaches all season. Cunningham plays taller than his 6’8” frame would suggest, yet still possesses the ability to hit the step-back jumper.
The Coreys (Fisher and Stokes) have shown a willingness to drain the perimeter shot and Dwayne Anderson can notch 20 points nightly.
Five game changers, one city, two championships, six months.
E-mail Chris Weidman at [email protected]
University of North Carolina Tar Heels
Write this down: the North Carolina Tar Heels will be your 2009 NCAA champions. The scary thing? They don’t even need a fully healthy Ty Lawson to do it.
The Tar Heels’ dynamic point guard has put to rest any doubts about his health after playing a team high 36 minutes against Oklahoma in the Elite Eight. UNC will overwhelm an undersized Villanova squad down low with Tyler Hansbrough and Deon Thompson, and Lawson will smother Scottie Reynolds with his typical tight defense.
That will get UNC into a marqee final game matchup with a talented University of Connecticut squad. The Tar Heels will look to neutralize Hasheem Thabeet by throwing 7-foot freshman Tyler Zeller at him off the bench. Hansbrough will take over down the stretch, racking up one big play after another to carry his program to its fifth national title.
E-mail Matt Poms at [email protected]