Evaluating the Final Four, One Full of Survivors

Curtis Finchum@CRose24Correspondent IMarch 31, 2009

BOSTON - MARCH 28:  The Villanova Wildcats hold up the trophy after defeating the Pittsburgh Panthers to advance to the Final Four during the NCAA Men's Basketball Tournament East Regionals at TD Banknorth Garden on March 28, 2009 in Boston, Massachusetts.  (Photo by Elsa/Getty Images)

Sixty-four teams entered the NCAA Tournament all looking to win on the biggest stage in College basketball. Four are left standing and are looking to prepare themselves for battle to see who will get a chance to win it all. 

Two predicted contenders at the beginning of the season have made it, the North Carolina Tar Heels and the Connecticut Huskies. Both one seeds, both dominant throughout the regular season, and both have weaknesses. 

Two surprises have pushed their way into the Final Four, as they look to acquire the ever so elusive trophy. The Michigan State Spartans out battled one-seeded Louisville to earn their spot and the Villanova Wildcats slipped by top seed Pittsburgh in the closing seconds.

Now down to these four teams to wage war against one another to find out who is truly worthy of playing for college basketballs biggest prize. 

West Region: No. 1 Connecticut Huskies

Who are they?: UConn has battled through adversity throughout the tournament. First losing head coach Bill Calhoun to illness and now in the middle of a recruiting scandal. However the Huskies keep battling and have won in significant fashion.

Led by seniors A.J. Price and Jeff Adrien as well as juniors Stanley Robinson and 7'3" monster Hasheem Thabeet they have looked as good as ever after slumping late in the regular season and in the Big East Tournament. 

How to beat them: As large and solid as this team may look, they have proved to be very vulnerable throughout the course of the season. The keys are getting Thabeet and Robinson in foul trouble while attempting to contain Adrien.

Price will be the one player that you just have to let score, but by slowing Adrien and out battling Thabeet and Robinson on the boards, any team is capable of beating UConn. 

How they can win: The Huskies have been dominant since the beginning of the tournament. If they continue what they have done thus far, pressing, pushing the ball up the floor, playing excellent defense, and rebounding the ball there is no team that can stick with them.

If Thabeet stays out of foul trouble, his presence in the lane keeps opposing guards from driving and attempting to get interior points. Adriens ability to hit the midrange jumper has helped open the floor for not only him but fellow senior Price who know has the ability to drive more often. 

Midwest Region: No. 2 Michigan State

Who are they?: Michigan State has been an inconsistent team all season yet they have still managed to win.

Carried in the postseason by senior center Goran Suton the Spartans have peaked at the right time as they pushed themselves by defending national champion Kansas in the Sweet 16 and by Big East champion Louisville in a route that nobody expected.

However, the face of head coach Tom Izzo's Spartans is speedy point guard from Detroit Kalin Lucas. 

How to beat them: The Spartans have proved to that when they play up to their potential they can be one of the toughest teams to beat. With Lucas pushing the ball up the floor and Suton not only scoring from the paint but from outside the arc as well it makes them look hard to beat.

But what they lack is sufficient depth and interior presences. By getting Suton in foul trouble and keeping Lucas out of the lane, and forcing them to shoot three's, Michigan State becomes extremely vulnerable. 

How they can win: Lucas can score in bunches and be extremely effective in late game situations. With Sutons range and ability to score inside it opens up the floor for Lucas. Izzo is a outstanding coach who has always been capable of getting his ball clubs to play their best ball down the stretch and in clutch situations.

By letting Lucas get into the lane and control the pace of the game there is virtually no way of containing the Spartans. 

East Region: No. 3 Villanova

Who are they?: The Villanova Wildcats led by explosive guard Scottie Reynolds are known as "Team Clutch" of the tournament. Coming up with tight but hard fought wins in virtually every game they have played thus far.

As their key clutch highlight comes from Reynolds as he scores the winning bucket against top seed Pittsburgh which could be the greatest play of the tournament. 

How to beat them: The Wildcats are a guard-heavy team, loaded with talented guards that are capable of playing multiple positions what they lack is a legitimate post presence.

However, they key to beating 'Nova is pressuring Reynolds enough to get him to have one of his off nights, where he's turning the ball over and shooting poorly from the field instead of scoring at will and setting up his teammates. 

How they can win: Even though their interior size is limited to 6'7" and 6'8", do not think that the Wildcats aren't physical. Instead they are a scrappy bunch of talented athletes, with their ability to lock down opposing teams guards (forced Duke's guard into 1-14 from the field).

Reynolds and company will press teams constantly as head coach Jay Wright has his team playing their best defense of the season. They look to run the floor and score in the lane. 

South Region: No. 1 North Carolina

Who are they?: The Tar Heels have been one of the best teams all year, sweeping Duke, winning one hundred games in the NCAA Tournament, and running away with the regular season title in the ACC.

But toward the end of the season they became "Team Toe", as Ty Lawson's toe injury caused him to miss games in the ACC Tournament and in the first round of the NCAA Tournament.

The Tar Heels won there opening round game with ease and have continued that trend ever since, especially since Lawson returned to the lineup in the second round against LSU.

Then in Memphis he went on to be the Most Outstanding Player, dropping 14 assists and had just two turnovers against Gonzaga and Oklahoma. 

How to beat them: The Tar Heels live and die off there backcourt and their now legendary post presence Tyler Hansbrough. By keeping Lawson out of the lane and forcing gunner Wayne Ellington into contested shots you have a good chance of competing with them.

But to win, you have to get Hansbrough in foul trouble. Hansbrough is the one player that opens up the floor for the Heels, is ability to grab boards and score from not only the lane but hit 18ft. jumpers (and an occasional three) he spreads out opposing defenses.

Keeping Hansbrough off the floor, containing Lawson, and frustrating Ellington gives teams the best chance to beat the Tar Heels.

How they can win: This team is possibly deeper than any team in the tournament, capable of using 10 to 11 players. Hansbrough, Lawson, and Ellington are the head of this high octane offense, but in the postseason, the unsung star has been senior forward Danny Green.

Green has just been a stat stuffing machine, scoring, grabbing rebounds, getting steals, dishing out assists, and just making big play after play.

If Carolina gets a good performance from there three stars and yet another monster one from Green, including solid performances from there bench, this team is nearly unbeatable. 

The Games

No. 1 Connecticut 78, No. 2 Michigan State 74: Coach Izzo prepares his team with yet another masterful game plan. But UConn ends up being to much for Lucas and Suton to handle.

Despite home court advantage, the Spartans can not out power UConn as they did Louisville, Price is just a better version of Lucas, while Adrien, Robinson, and Thabeet will just handle Suton inside.

No. 1 North Carolina 84, No. 3 Villanova 76: Villanova's guards are just to good to go away quietly. But in the end, Lawson and the Tar Heels will prove to be to talented, to strong, and just to deep for Reynolds and company to handle. In the end, it will tie down to how long Roy Williams is willing to let his squad cut loose.

After being blown out by Kansas last year in the Final Four, they've learned their lesson and if they play up to potential, they won't be stopped. 


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