Illinois vs. Louisville
TIME: 5:07 p.m.
RECORDS: Illinois 36-1, Louisville 33-4.
HOW THEY GOT HERE: Illinois won the Chicago Regional as the No. 1 seed. The Illini defeated No. 16 Fairleigh Dickinson 67-55, No. 9 Nevada 71-59, No. 12 Wisconsin-Milwaukee 77-63 and No. 3 Arizona 90-89 (OT). Louisville won the Albuquerque Regional as the No. 4 seed. The Cardinals defeated No. 13 Louisiana-Lafayette 68-62, No. 5 Georgia Tech 76-54, No. 1 Washington 93-79 and No. 7 West Virginia 93-85 (OT).
TOURNEY TIDBIT: Louisville is trying to become the first No. 4 seed since Arizona in 1997 to get to the title game. The Wildcats won it all that season.
THE BUZZ: Both teams rely extensively on their perimeter trios: Illinois with Dee Brown, Luther Head and Deron Williams, Louisville with Taquan Dean, Francisco Garcia and Larry O'Bannon. The Illini guards are quicker and better ballhandlers; the Louisville guards are more physical and have slightly better range. The quickness advantage could be huge today, on both ends of the court. Louisville's big men are better than their Illini counterparts, and Ellis Myles' passing ability (he's second on Louisville in assists) has been huge in the tournament. Neither team asks for much more than rebounding and defense from its bench, so any offense from the reserves will be huge. Expect a game in the 80s, with a plethora of long-range shots and some exciting transition basketball.
Michigan State vs. UNC
TIME: 7:47 p.m.
RECORDS: Michigan State 26-6, UNC 31-4.
HOW THEY GOT HERE: Michigan State won the Austin Regional as the No. 5 seed. The Spartans d. No. 12 Old Dominion 89-81, No. 13 Vermont 72-61, No. 1 Duke 78-68 and No. 2 Kentucky 94-88 (2OTs). UNC won the Syracuse Regional as the No. 1 seed. The Tar Heels defeated No. 16 Oakland 96-68, No. 9 Iowa State 92-65, No. 5 Villanova 67-66 and No. 6 Wisconsin 88-82.
TOURNEY TIDBIT: North Carolina hasn't been to the final since 1993, when the Heels beat Michigan to win the title in a game best remembered for Chris Webber calling a timeout he didn't have.
THE BUZZ: North Carolina is the most talented team in the Final Four, with a ton of offensive firepower. In Gs Raymond Felton and Rashad McCants and Fs Sean May and Marvin Williams (a reserve), the Heels have four first-round picks. That said, the Heels don't always bear down on defense, and they've committed more turnovers than any other team at the Final Four (they also have more assists, too). It's vital that Michigan State C Paul Davis play well on both ends of the court; he's the Spartans' only low-post threat offensively, and if he is shut down, they won't win. Michigan State has six guys who are three-point threats. UNC is athletic, but Michigan State has even more athletes and guys such as Ager, Shannon Brown and Kelvin Torbert need to put that athleticism to good use. Michigan State is excellent from the foul line.