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NCAA Tournament: Breakdown of Final Four matchups

North Carolina Tar Heels (32-4) vs. Villanova Wildcats (30-7)

Backcourt

UNC's Ty Lawson, the ACC player of the year and the South Region most outstanding player, is averaging 20.3 points and has 20 assists and just two turnovers in his three NCAA Tournament games. Wayne Ellington has been hot, too, averaging 19.0 points in the NCAAs. Villanova's Scottie Reynolds, the most outstanding player of the East Region, is the kind of quick guard that has caused UNC trouble by getting into the lane to create or shoot. He wants the ball when the game is on the line as he showed by hitting a shot with 0.5 seconds left to beat Pittsburgh in the Elite Eight. Reggie Redding doesn't score a lot but is a lockdown defender who rebounds and passes.

Edge: UNC

Frontcourt

Tyler Hansbrough, a first-team All-American for the past three years, is coming off a subpar game (eight points on 2-of-4 shooting), and the chances are he won't be so limited again. By the way, he does tend to shoot and make a lot of free throws, which has to be a concern given Villanova's lack of depth up front. Danny Green is coming off a 6-of-9 shooting performance in the Elite Eight win against Oklahoma, while Deon Thompson does all the dirty work inside. The Wildcats' Dante Cunningham has blossomed as a senior and leads the team in scoring (16.2 points) and rebounding (7.4). Dwayne Anderson and Shane Clark are solid role players and, along with Cunningham (and Frank Tchuisi), form the most successful senior class in program history with 102 wins.

Edge: UNC

Bench

Fs Ed Davis and Tyler Zeller and G Larry Drew all look like future stars for the Tar Heels. But all are freshmen, and there's no telling how they will react to this stage. G Bobby Frasor is a senior, however, and should be steady. Villanova relies on a trio of freshmen, Gs Corey Fisher and Corey Stokes, and F Antonio Pena. Fisher and Stokes play starters' minutes and are the third and fourth highest scorers (10.7 and 9.5 respectively).

Edge: Villanova

Coach

UNC's Roy Williams is in the Final Four for a seventh time (four were with Kansas) and shed the label that he couldn't win the big one when UNC cut down the nets in 2005. Only John Wooden (12), Dean Smith (11) and Mike Krzyzewski (10) have made it to the Final Four more times. Jay Wright is on this stage for the first time, but his mentor is former Villanova coach Rollie Massimino, the architect of the 1985 national championship team.

Edge: UNC

Connecticut Huskies (31-4) vs. Michigan State Spartans (30-6)

Backcourt

Connecticut senior A.J. Price has stepped up offensively since Jerome Dyson went out with an injury and was named the West Region's most outstanding player. He's averaging 20 ppg in the NCAAs. His backcourt mate is another senior, Craig Austrie, giving UConn incredible experience. Michigan State counters with sophomore Kalin Lucas, the Big Ten player of the year, and senior Travis Walton, a heady passer and the Big Ten's top defender.

Edge: UConn

Frontcourt

Huskies 7-3 C Hasheem Thabeet, the Big East co-player of the year and two-time defensive player of the year, alters more shots than he blocks, and that's saying something. He has 150 blocks this year, just seven shy of breaking the school record. Jeff Adrien, like Thabeet, averages a double double, and junior Stanley Robinson has emerged as a big-time scoring threat. Michigan State C Goran Suton, who led the Big Ten in rebounding, is averaging 14.3 points and 11.5 rebounds in the NCAA Tournament; he was the Midwest Region's most outstanding player. Raymar Morgan can be dominating but has struggled lately and is now playing with a protective mask after he suffered a broken nose last weekend.

Edge: UConn

Bench

Freshman G Kemba Walker looks like the next big thing for UConn. He matched his career high of 23 points in the Elite Eight showdown against Missouri. F Gavin Edwards has played in all 35 games. Michigan State sophomore Gs Chris Allen (8.7 ppg) and Durrell Summers (8.4 ppg) are accomplished 3-point shooters and they can and must hit from the outside to stretch the UConn defense.

Edge: Michigan State

Coach

Huskies coach Jim Calhoun has been to a pair of Final Fours and has two national titles to show for those trips — 1999 in St. Petersburg and then again in 2004. Michigan State's Tom Izzo is in his fifth Final Four (he won it all in 2000 against Florida), all in the past 11 years. He also has timing on his side. He and his team are the first group to play the Final Four in their home state since Duke did in 1994.

Edge: Michigan State

NCAA Tournament: Breakdown of Final Four matchups 04/03/09 [Last modified: Friday, April 3, 2009 11:22pm]
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