- The Washington Times - Friday, April 3, 2009

[1] Connecticut (31-4) vs. [2] Michigan State (30-6)

6:07 p.m., Chs. 9, 13, Ford Field, Detroit

Breaking down Connecticut

Any team with one of the country’s top point guards and most imposing big men faces high expectations - just ask North Carolina. But the same is true of Connecticut, which enjoys the inside-outside combination of Hasheem Thabeet and A.J. Price. The rest of the Huskies’ regulars, though, ultimately determine whether this is merely a good team or a great one. The rugged Jeff Adrien averages 10.0 rebounds, and quicksilver freshman Kemba Walker can manage the offense when Price isn’t in the game. Toss in the fast-improving Stanley Robinson and reliable standby Craig Austrie, and Connecticut has handled the midseason loss of Jerome Dyson better than anyone might have expected. None of these guys have played beyond the Elite Eight, but the same is true of Michigan State.

Breaking down Michigan State

Good luck finding a bona fide superstar here. But there are standout players (Goran Suton and Kalin Lucas), emerging players (Durrell Summers and Draymond Green), underrated players (senior Travis Walton), intriguing players (Delvon Roe) and one enigma who hasn’t been himself the past two months (Raymar Morgan). Morgan is the wild card this entire weekend, and if he starts playing at his level of a year ago, the Spartans can be scary. Regardless of Morgan’s performance, Michigan State will be tough, a staple under coach Tom Izzo. Oh, and there will be thousands of green-clad crazies glad to see the Spartans play in the national semifinals less than 100 miles from campus. Michigan State will be the fan favorite, if not the favorite on the court.

Matchup to watch

Connecticut C Hasheem Thabeet vs. Michigan State C Goran Suton

Don’t consider Suton a significant interior factor against the shot-swatting Thabeet; running into a fairly agile 7-foot-3 dude makes that a fact of life. But Suton demonstrated in the first half of Michigan State’s regional final rout of Louisville that he can step out and make jumpers. The Spartans must avoid getting demoralized inside and pass as well as they did against Louisville. If not, they look like a candidate to get bullied out of the building, and that never happens to Michigan State.

Prediction

Connecticut 69, Michigan State 65

A better game than expected. Connecticut would have a much wider edge if it were at full strength (and Jerome Dyson were playing), but Michigan State has a way of grinding things to a halt. Still, the Huskies can win in any fashion, so look for them to edge out the Spartans.

[1] Connecticut

Projected starters

No PlayerPosHtWtYr

12 A.J. PriceG6-2190Sr.

24 Craig AustrieG6-3176Sr.

4 Jeff AdrienF6-7243Sr.

21 Stanley RobinsonF6-9220So.

34 Hasheem ThabeetC7-3265Jr.

Top reserves

15 Kemba WalkerG6-1172Fr.

2 Donnell BeverlyG6-4190So.

33 Gavin EdwardsF6-9230Jr.

Team leaders

CategoryPlayerAvg

PointsA.J. Price14.7

ReboundsHasheem Thabeet10.9

AssistsA.J. Price4.8

[2] Michigan State

Projected starters

No PlayerPosHtWtYr

1 Kalin LucasG6-0180So.

5 Travis WaltonG6-2190Sr.

2 Raymar MorganF6-8225Jr,

10 Delvon RoeF6-8225Fr.

14 Goran SutonC6-10245Sr.

Top reserves

15 Durrell SummersG6-4195So.

3 Chris AllenG6-3205So.

23 Draymond GreenF6-6235Fr.

Team leaders

CategoryPlayerAvg.

PointsKalin Lucas14.6

ReboundsGoran Suton8.4

AssistsKalin Lucas4.6

[1] North Carolina (32-4) vs. [3] Villanova (30-7)

8:47 p.m., Chs. 9, 13, Ford Field, Detroit

Breaking down North Carolina

The key to North Carolina remains the same as a year ago. Junior guard Ty Lawson enjoyed an excellent season, maybe the best by an ACC point guard in the shot clock era. After Lawson missed the ACC tournament, anyone inundated by the drumbeat of praise for either the entire roster or four-year megastar Tyler Hansbrough would have to concede the Tar Heels need Lawson to play well. Hansbrough will be himself, and wing options Wayne Ellington and Danny Green will be crucial components against Villanova. The knock on Carolina (and most Roy Williams teams) is its ennui with regard to defense. If these guys play as hard at that end as they did in the South Region, it’ll probably be game over for Villanova.

Breaking down Villanova

There’s no obvious single thing that Jay Wright’s team does well; rather, the Wildcats are above average at everything. They can score, with five guys averaging nine or more points. They’ve shown a propensity to defend. They shoot better than 45 percent from the floor and 75 percent from the foul line. They outrebound opponents by nearly five a game. Teams like that tend not to be fully appreciated, but then they happen to win a few games in a row at the right time and - poof - they’re suddenly great. Such is Villanova’s lot. Beyond Dante Cunningham and Scottie Reynolds, it’s not a team full of names. But if that sounds familiar, well, there was a team in 1985 that did the same thing. But these guys are all about the offense - 20-1 when scoring 75 points or more. This is not a team afraid to match tempo with North Carolina.

Matchup to watch

North Carolina G Ty Lawson vs. Villanova G Scottie Reynolds

This isn’t so much a head-to-head matchup as it is a “who-can-run-his-team-better?” consideration. While Reynolds isn’t a full-time point guard by any means, when he’s scuffling and committing turnovers at a rapid clip, the Wildcats are toast. Lawson is at his best when he pushes the tempo and lets others score, but he can bail out the Tar Heels with his driving. Look for that to happen again.

Prediction

North Carolina 83, Villanova 78

Since the 2005 national title, North Carolina has progressed from the second round to regional finalist to national semifinalist. The Tar Heels will take another step Saturday, outlasting Villanova in a visually appealing game.

- Patrick Stevens

[1] NORTH CAROLINA

Projected starters

No. PlayerPosHtWtYr

5 Ty LawsonG5-11195Jr.

22 Wayne EllingtonG6-4200Jr.

14 Danny GreenG6-6210Sr.

21 Deon ThompsonF6-8245Jr.

50 Tyler HansbroughF6-9250Sr.

Top reserves

32 Ed DavisF6-10215Fr.

4 Bobby FrasorG6-3210Sr.

44 Tyler ZellerF7-0220Fr.

Team leaders

CategoryPlayerAvg.

PointsTyler Hansbrough20.9

ReboundsTyler Hansbrough8.1

AssistsTy Lawson6.4

[3] Villanova

Projected starters

No. PlayerPosHtWtYr

1 Scottie ReynoldsG6-2190Jr.

15 Reggie ReddingG6-5205Jr.

22 Dwayne AndersonG6-6215Sr.

20 Shane ClarkF6-7205Sr.

33 Dante CunninghamF6-8230Sr.

Top reserves

10 Corey FisherG6-1200So.

24 Corey StokesG6-5220So.

0 Antonio PenaF6-8235So.

Team leaders

CategoryPlayerAvg.

PointsDante Cunningham16.2

ReboundsDante Cunningham7.4

AssistsScottie Reynolds3.3


Copyright © 2018 The Washington Times, LLC. Click here for reprint permission.

The Washington Times Comment Policy

The Washington Times welcomes your comments on Spot.im, our third-party provider. Please read our Comment Policy before commenting.

 

Click to Read More and View Comments

Click to Hide