After watching the NCAA Basketball Elite Eight and reading all the analysis in the Los Angeles Times and on different websites, and after seeing how this tournament panned out, I have one conclusion:
This NCAA Final Four will be most intriguing.
I've always felt that this was the best thing that the sport of basketball has to offer (NBA Playoffs, schmayoffs!), but the four teams left in this year's Big Dance will make this event at Ford Field in Detroit very interesting, because of the match-ups and how the various teams got there.
Let me handicap the two games that will be held this Saturday, April 4th...
1. NORTH CAROLINA vs. VILLANOVA: This will be a truly epic match-up, because it involves a team that many thought would be where they are right now against a squad that is frankly the hottest, peaking at exactly the right time.
Having given traditional powerhouses UCLA and Duke massive beatdowns and beaten number one seed Pittsburgh on a last second lay-up, I'm sure people are saying that these Wildcats from Philadelphia are a team of destiny.
However, as much as I think that Villanova can very well win it all, I feel that the Tar Heels, with Tyler Hansborough and Ty Lawson, will be a bit too much for them in the end. It will be a great game, the Wildcats will give UNC all it can handle, possibly going into overtime, but...
My Pick - NORTH CAROLINA, by around five points.
2. CONNECTICUT vs. MICHIGAN STATE: This is a contest that I'm particularly looking forward to, because the campus of one of these teams is located roughly ninety minutes from Ford Field.
As this is essentially a home game for Michigan State, this represents the ultimate home court advantage for those Spartans.
And as much of a sports school that MSU is, I will be profoundly surprised if the stands are not at least 80% covered in green and white garb. Do not misunderstand me, UConn is very good, having been ranked number one this season, but I feel that 20,000 people screaming and rooting against you in a game like this may just be a tiny bit too much to overcome for anyone.
I know that teams have triumphed in those situations before; Vince Young and his Texas Longhorns beat Reggie Bush's USC Trojans in their backyard for the national championship in 2006, and those Huskies from Storrs are perfectly capable of doing the same thing. However...
My Pick - MICHIGAN STATE, and their 20,000 to 25,000 fans that they will no doubt bring with them. But not by much.
As for who will cut down the nets on April 6th - I'm positive you're dying to know how I see it:
It will be an epic classic between North Carolina and Michigan State (and their fan base), but the powder blue Chapel Hill duo of Hansborough and especially Lawson will end up pulling it through and UNC will win their 5th national championship; I've had them winning it all since this tournament began.
I may full well be wrong, who knows? But that's the way I see things going down.
Everyone can start disagreeing and debating me on this now.