We started with 65, and we're down to the Final Four. All the breathtaking games and the blowouts have culminated to the last four standing at the gates of Detroit.
The grit, hustle, practice and suspense have left us with Michigan State, Connecticut, Villanova and North Carolina. Here's the breakdown.
Michigan State vs. Connecticut - 6:07 EST, Saturday 4/4/2009, Detroit, MI
Michigan State has been a team of smoke in glass mirrors. A run to the Final Four that proves Tom Izzo's ability as a coach and motivator. This team has been through a myriad of injuries, has been counted as an afterthought and have snatched victory from the jaws of defeat multiple times.
But, after all that, here they stand with an opportunity to be crowned elite.
Then, there's Connecticut. A team that lost one of it's best players, Jerome Dyson, towards the end of the season, had to start the tournament with recruiting violation allegations circling and still managed to be here.
The match up will come down to firepower. Does Michigan State have enough fire power to handle what Connecticut is capable of doing? MSU has employed a strategy of slowing the game, playing great defense and doing just enough to win the games they've had thus far in the tournament.
That plays right into the hands of UCONN. They are the team that beats you they way you want to get beat. They can run with you, but they will play possession basketball with you and dismantle you, given the chance. I fully expect this to be a manhandling with MSU's run coming to an abrupt end. Connecticut wins 83-65 in a game with little drama.
Villanova vs. North Carolina - 8:47 EST, Saturday 4/4/2009, Detroit, MI
Villanova is a team on a mission. They started off a little slow against American, then they left no questions unanswered against UCLA and Duke. Then, they were able to prevail in their meeting with Pittsburgh, who many were counting on to win their office pool.
North Carolina was everyone's choice when the season began, but they suffered through some injuries throughout the season that made people wonder. They've gotten through those things, and they look the part of everyone's favorite, advancing to the Final Four in impressive fashion.
Now, the game. The best description I can come up with for what I expect is "Gentlemen, start your engines!" I expect this game to be an up-and-down the court shootout that keeps us all on the edge of our seats.
Although Villanova has the ability to win this game, I believe UNC will have a little too much and I expect them to play for the title on Monday after winning 94-83.
Enjoy the Final Four, and we'll discuss the final on Monday morning.