10 things to watch for on Saturday

April, 4, 2009
Yes, Michigan State will have a home crowd. Yes, the timeouts will seem like they last forever. And yes, the sneaker squeaks will seem much louder than you remember.

Here are some other things you can expect to see Saturday:

10. Michigan State will try to set screens for Chris Allen with whomever Hasheem Thabeet is guarding. Watch for MSU to attempt any and every set to bring Thabeet away from the basket, the only way to score easily against the Huskies.

9. UConn will funnel Kalin Lucas to Thabeet, much like it was able to do with Jonny Flynn in Storrs. Lucas must navigate the length of the Huskies in order to make plays for the Spartans to win.

8. Michigan State will gap or over-help in order to force Connecticut to hit jumpers. If the Spartans can keep the Huskies from scoring off rebounds, they can win.

7. Jim Calhoun might call the quickest timeout in Final Four history. He has made a career of the quick hook and/or timeout. If MSU jumps on Uonn, expect Calhoun out on the floor near midcourt, pointing to the bench to quell the momentum.

6. Villanova will run ball screens in an attempt to goad North Carolina into a switch. If Tyler Hansbrough or any of the bigs for UNC ends up on a Nova guard, that is when the Cats will attack.

5. North Carolina will trap out of any called timeout. The Tar Heels do it all the time. Nova must be prepared and make them pay with an open shape on the back end.

4. UNC will try to throw the ball into the low post as often as possible after seeing Pitt underutilize DeJuan Blair last Saturday.

3. Villanova will try to pounce on Larry Drew as soon as he steps into the game. Drew normally plays with another backup or two and is far less confident with the ball than Ty Lawson. Nova will be lying in wait for Roy Williams to begin his rotation.

2. North Carolina will play with tremendous confidence. By all accounts, the Heels feel like they belong and are motivated to play much better than their embarrassing performance early against Kansas last year.

1. Watch how the games are officiated. That certainly will be a key factor. The tighter the whistle, the better chance the favorites will succeed. Every coach I have spoken to told me that Nova especially must have a "Big East" type of loose whistle in order to win.

And oh, by the way …
At some point early on, it will feel really weird without Billy Packer calling the game. He had such strong and pointed opinions that you knew he was doing the game. Clark Kellogg is a great guy, but his style could not be any more different than that of his predecessor. I bet you will miss Packer on Saturday -- maybe for the first time ever.





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