|Lawson's toe slowly becoming a non-issue for UNC|
|Written by Admin|
|Thursday, 02 April 2009 14:00|
Yet, for one of the few times in the past three weeks, one subject didn't dominate conversation: The Toe.
Maybe that's because the Tar Heels' floor leader doesn't seem too worried about it heading into the Final Four.
``It's pretty much a nonfactor right now,'' he said.
Lawson jammed his right big toe during practice two days before the regular-season finale against Duke, but played 36 minutes and nearly had a triple-double in that win. The next day, the toe swelled unexpectedly and kept him out of two Atlantic Coast Conference tournament games followed by the NCAA tournament opener the following week.
awson had 19 points and was selected as the South Regional's most outstanding player.
Lawson sounded ready for Saturday's matchup with Villanova in the national semifinals. On a scale of 1 to 10 with 10 being the best, Lawson said the toe felt like an 8.
Lawson needed a painkilling shot to play against the Blue Devils, though coach Roy Williams had said earlier in the tournament that Lawson wouldn't do it again. He echoed that Thursday.
``I still don't want that to happen,'' he said.
SQUEAL WITH DELIGHT: Jay Wright will have his lucky charm tucked safely in his pocket as Villanova tries to huff and puff and blow North Carolina down.
Move over Babe and Wilbur. Wright has his own lucky pig.
Wright's 10-year-old daughter, Reilly, decided midway through the season that her dad needed a good-luck charm before big games, so she gave Villanova's coach a miniature stuffed pig. Reilly Wright had been bringing her own pigs to games and passed one on to her dad. He's kept the pig safely tucked in his designer suit's inside pocket, and he'll have it Saturday against the Tar Heels.
``I certainly didn't want my players knowing I had a little pig in my pocket,'' Wright said. ``And I also had to admit to my daughter that I really don't believe that the pigs win us the game.''
in 24 years.
``She now has a bunch of those little pigs and carries a stuffed animal pig,'' Wright said. ``It was between me and my daughter. Well, not anymore. Now, it's just embarrassing.''
MSU'S MASKED MAN: Michigan State prides itself on being a balanced team that doesn't rely on a star or two. The Spartans, though, say they need forward Raymar Morgan to play well to upset Connecticut.
``Raymar is going to be the X-factor in this game,'' Michigan State center Goran Suton said.
Coach Tom Izzo agrees.
``I don't think it's putting pressure on him, it's just being honest,'' Izzo said.
The Spartans hope the 6-foot-8 Morgan gives the Huskies problems, because he can score inside and out, defend, rebound and run.
But Morgan is averaging less than six points a game in the NCAA tournament, barely looking like the player coach Izzo said was his best in the middle of the season.
Morgan's season was stunted in late January with walking pneumonia and mononucleosis and hasn't been the same since.
``It's been a tough year, but all that matters is we're in the Final Four,'' Morgan said.
He broke his nose in the round of 16 against Kansas, then was held scoreless in 10 minutes in the next round versus Louisville.
``The mask he had was a hockey goalie's,'' Izzo said. ``Now, he's got a real, form-fitted one like Rip Hamilton has. Hopefully, he plays like Rip.''
ROAD TO THE FINAL FOUR: Only Michigan State hit the road for Ford Field, just 90 miles from the Spartan's campus in East Lansing.
For those interested in how many airline miles the three other team's players would have received - if they were eligible to receive any benefits - the NCAA conveniently posted signs in the four corners of the arena showing the distance each traveled.
Connecticut came the farthest, 746 miles. Close behind was North Carolina at 701, followed by Villanova at 572.
MVP FAN: J-Roll backs his 'Cats.
Philadelphia Phillies shortstop Jimmy Rollins is friends with Jay Wright and a devoted follower of the Wildcats. He was one of 333 well-wishers who texted the Villanova coach on Saturday after the Wildcats clinched their spot in the Final Four. Rollins met Wright at a Midnight Madness, and they've kept in touch through the years.
``The way he goes out there, he's a disciplinarian and he gets your attention,'' Rollins said. ``He knows his stuff, knows his players. I just admire everything about that.''
When Rollins went 0-for-10 in the first two games of the World Series, he turned to a self-improvement book titled, ``The Inner Game of Tennis: The Classic Guide to the Mental Side of Peak Performance.'' Rollins said the book was like therapy for him and passed it along to Wright to help out the Wildcats if they got stuck in a slump.
ou really insightful stuff, not just 'go get 'em,''' Wright said. ``He'll say things about where his team was at this point, and a lot of them I'll share it with the guys. He's good. He's really good.''
Rollins and the Phillies ended Philadelphia's 25-year pro sports drought last October, and it's been 24 years since the Wildcats won their only national title. Rollins is hoping Villanova gives the city another reason to throw a parade.
``I would love to see them win it all, definitely,'' he said.
AP Sports Writers Aaron Beard, Dan Gelston and Larry Lage contributed to this report.