Randon thoughts on the Final Four

Posted: Sunday, April 05, 2009 by Travis Cody in

I love not having to listen to Billy Packer. I've always enjoyed Clark Kellogg as a college basketball analyst. He's relevant, he's topical, and he's colorful without being over the top. I have also enjoyed Greg Anthony's work this season.

Michigan State started the game playing with tremendous confidence. In fact, both teams looked very well prepared and focused.

UConn turned up the defense about midway through the first half, swarming and ramping up the physical play. But MSU handled Louisville's pressure very well in the Midwest regional final. It took the Spartans a couple of minutes to figure out how to attack the defense.

Oh geeez. MSU took a hard foul in the last couple of minutes of the first half and the players emotions got out of control. Playing with intensity is one thing. But you have to expect physical play and hard fouls. When it happens, you pick yourself up and go make your free throws. That's being tough.

It's been 30 years since Magic Johnson led Michigan State to the national championship, beating Indiana State and Larry Bird. Many credit that title game as responsible for the massive popularity of the NCAA Tournament.

UConn roared out of the lockerroom to begin the second half, but again MSU kept its poise and settled the game back down. This is really a well played game by both teams.

Halfway through the second half, MSU took control of the game and UConn looked anxious.

The Spartans continued to put pressure on the Huskies, and UConn started to panic. At about 3 minutes to play, MSU had forged an 11 point lead by causing turnovers and converting on the break. UConn couldn't get the ball inside and MSU manhandled the Huskies on the boards. The Spartans bench played extraordinarily well, dispelling the conventional wisdom that other teams might be deeper than they. MSU played a balanced game.
Still, UConn pulled itself together and refused to give up. They clawed back to within 4 points with a minute and a half to play. But again the Spartans were up to the challenge, weathered the amped up pressure, and made enough free throws in the final minute.

Michigan State defeated Connecticut 82-73 to advance to the final game on Monday. I did pick UConn, but I also said I wouldn't be surprised if MSU pulled off the upset.

In the second game North Carolina got off to a tremendous start, overwhelming Villanova on the boards and creating quick shots and turnovers. The Wildcats didn't shoot very well in the first 5-8 minutes, while the Tarheels shot 3 of 5 from the 3 point line and senior Tyler Hansbrough dominated in the paint.

UNC played like a team on a mission to erase the pounding it took from Kansas in last year's semifinal.

Still, Villanova hung in and cut the lead from 17 to 9 at the half.

The Wildcats opened the second half with a strong defensive effort to get back into the game, cutting the lead to 5. Carolina responded with poise and focus to extend the lead back to double digits.

Villanova played hard, but just did not shoot the ball well enough. Back in 1985 when Villanova pulled off the shocking upset of Georgetown, that team shot almost 79% from the floor. The 2009 Wildcats needed similar strong shooting and just didn't get it.

I thought this would be a closer game because of the quickness of Villanova's perimeter players, but North Carolina proved that those who picked them at the beginning of the season as the best team in college basketball had a legitimate argument. The Tarheels answered every Villanova run and remained in control for the majority of the game. UNC was only seriously challenged once.

North Carolina defeats Villanova 83-69 to advance to the final game on Monday. And so my prediction of a Big East final is kaput.

It's the Big 10 vs the ACC...#2 seed Michigan State (31-6) vs #1 seed North Carolina (33-4) in a rematch of a game on 3 Dec, which UNC won 98-63 at Ford Field but on the Spartans' home floor.


  1. Akelamalu says:

    Hello! Hope you're having a lovely Sunday. :)

  1. DrillerAA says:

    I'm a afraid that Cinderella's glass slipper will not fit the Spartans this year. A huge hometown advantage will not be enough to overcome the balance and depth that the Tarheels bring to the court Monday night. It would be a great story for MSU to take down two no. 1 seeds, but I think that NC will just be too much for the boys from East Lansing. While the team from Chapel Hill have had a few anxious moments during this tournament, at the end of the day, it's always been a double-digit win for Carolina Blue. That's my story and I'm stickin' to it.

  1. DrillerAA says:

    I'm not entirely sure that I should be calling a No. 2 seed Cinderella.

  1. If only it were football.

  1. Anndi says:

    Where's the CAKE and Guinness?

  1. Believe it or not, I watched the second half of the NC game last night. I'm going to visit my dad in a while. I'm sure he is very happy.
    Great recap, Travis.

    P.S. Driller's comment cracked me up.

  1. Travis says:

    Akelamalu: It's a wonderful Sunday!

    NNG: Yup.

    Drilleraa: You might be right.

    Charles: Patience. Only 4 months until camp opens.

    Ann: Ate 'em!

    Mimi: I do believe it. And you wrote quite the post about it.

  1. a sports post trav! ha ha ha

    smiles, bee

  1. I thought Villanova would give North Carolina a better game, but I was wrong.

    I think North Carolina will win it all.

  1. I gotta go with Michigan....since none of my other teams even came close....

  1. Alice says:

    Hi Travis. Thanks much for visiting my Manic Monday post. Have a wonderful week.

  1. As usual, it was a fun tournament.