And Then There Were Two...
Posted By:Josh Morse - Kearney, NE Tags:
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And then there were two...
Michigan State and North Carolina met up back in December, with the Tar Heels cruising to a 98-63 win over the Spartans. But, so much has changed since then for both teams. The Tar Heels have lost their aura of invincibility since then in losing four games, and Michigan State has improved with the addition of Goran Suton and the improved health of Delvon Roe.
In short, a game in December just does not matter anymore. All that matters is who plays better Monday night.
Both teams excelled in their semifinal games, with Michigan State impressively dismantling UConn from the underdog role, while North Carolina took care of business against Villanova in a game that was never in doubt. Coming out of Saturday’s action, both teams have to feel good about themselves and their chances in Monday night’s final.
So, let’s break it down, by position …
Tyler Hansbrough vs. Goran Suton
While Deon Thompson is typically listed as the UNC center, this will be the matchup in Monday night’s game. Suton did not look impressive in his matchup with Hasheem Thabeet and Jeff Adrien, falling into foul trouble early and never becoming much of an offensive factor (four points).
Meanwhile, Hansbrough bounced back from his subpar performance against Oklahoma to go for 18 points against the Wildcats.
Hansbrough vs. Suton is an intriguing matchup because Suton is crafty enough where he could potentially get Hansbrough in early foul trouble, which would spell serious problems for UNC. At the same time, Suton is not a very athletic player, which is the type of player which can contain Hansbrough. This matchup could decide the game, though Suton will have a lot of defensive help.
Deon Thompson vs. Delvon Roe
Neither player is a make or break player for his team- but, if one of these guys goes off, it would be a huge lift for his team.
Roe played a solid game against a tough UConn front line, while Thompson was subpar in going against a smaller Villanova frontcourt. This matchup may lack star power, but if one of these guys can significantly outplay the other it could make for a huge impact on this game’s outcome.
Danny Green vs. Raymar Morgan
Morgan bounced back from his dismal showing against Louisville (zero points) with 18 against the Huskies. He appears to have adjusted to playing with the mask on his face, and is back to being the Raymar Morgan we have grown accustomed to seeing.
Danny Green has been UNC’s jack of all trades during this tournament, and continued in this role against Villanova, giving the team a lift with four three-pointers and three blocks against.
This matchup features two athletic wings who both could have a good enough—or bad enough—game to alter the outcome.
Wayne Ellington vs. Travis Walton
When tipoff comes Monday night, this pair may not be matched up together as Tom Izzo may decide to put Walton on Tywon Lawson instead.
But, assuming these two square off it will make for a physical battle. Ellington has improved his ability to use screens and his teammates to get open, and Walton does not like to give an inch to the man he is guarding.
Ellington looked great against Villanova shooting open jumpers- he will find it much tougher to get it going against Walton.
Ty Lawson vs. Kalin Lucan
(ACC Player of the Year vs. Big Ten Player of the Year)
It will be a no contest.
Lucas has played a great tournament, and has had a great season. But, he will not be able to keep up with Lawson- nobody has been able to for about two months now.
If Izzo goes with this matchup, his team could be in for a long night. Lucas cannot keep up with the speedy Lawson and containing the lightning quick UNC guard will be Izzo’s number one goal. Look for Walton to get some serious minutes guarding Lawson.
UNC’s Bench vs. MSU’s Bench
This is an interesting one. MSU needs their bench much more than UNC does to put points on the board- UNC merely looks for its bench players to defend and rebound until their stars are rested.
MSU goes a legitimate 11 deep, while UNC only really trusts Ed Davis and Bobby Frasor off of its bench.
Roy Williams vs. Tom Izzo
I have said it before, and I will say it again- nobody is better in college basketball at maximizing talent than Izzo is. His ability to draw up plays in the huddle are unmatched in college basketball.
Williams has a more relaxed approach to his in-game strategy- he likes to trust his players, sit back and watch them run. Against Villanova he did call a timeout—a Williams rarity—but his main coaching input comes through his pregame preparation.
The Pick: Michigan State played a great physical game against UConn, but I cannot see them replicating that effort against UNC.
At the same time, I cannot imagine another UNC opponent to shoot as dismally as Oklahoma and Villanova just have.
Both teams are battle-tested and playing their best basketball of the season right now. It will be great to see Michigan State come out to the roar of its hometown crowd with everything that is going on in that state, but I cannot see them defeating the Tar Heels. North Carolina has been on a mission all tournament and when they are playing their best basketball nobody can beat them.
Michigan State will keep this close for a half, but North Carolina will slowly pull away as the game nears its end. They simply are too talented to lose this game.
National Champion: North Carolina Tar Heels
The Score: 83-69
Most Outstanding Player: Tyler Hansbrough
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