Saturday's NCAA Picks
Our team of writers and handicappers hand out their College Basketball picks and predictions for Saturday, April 4.
Michigan State vs. Connecticut, 6:05PM ET
One look at the thousands of fans waiting in the rain an hour before the gates at Ford Field opened, and it's clear where Michigan State's motivation comes from.
For Connecticut, the focus is much narrower, though no less powerful. A year removed from that crushing loss to San Diego in the NCAA tournament, two from that unUConn-like 17-14 record, their program buffeted this season by coach Jim Calhoun's latest health scares and other distractions, the court is the Huskies' refuge, the one place they are truly in control.
``This team has given me incredible joy this season,'' said Calhoun, a Hall of Famer who was diagnosed with his third bout of cancer last May. ``They were the tonic, quite frankly, the best medicine I could ever possibly receive.''
You can say the Michigan State-Connecticut matchup in the Final Four on Saturday night is only a game, even though the winner advances to play for a national title. But when real-world problems - unemployment, cancer, possible recruiting violations - are a constant companion, those 2 1/2 hours they play give fans and players alike an escape.
Villanova vs. North Carolina, 8:45PM ET
They're not quite who we thought they were.
North Carolina isn't exactly that group of kids who just couldn't resist banding together to take another shot at winning the national title.
Villanova isn't exactly that lovable little underdog looking for the perfect game, a la the 1985 title team led by Rollie Massimino.
They meet Saturday in the Final Four, each a win away from playing for the national title, and each still waiting to write the final chapter on how they'll be remembered.
``There's no question it would have been a huge disappointment if we hadn't gotten back to the Final Four,'' Tar Heels coach Roy Williams said.
Such is life when all four NBA prospects decide to stick around another year.
But other than Tyler Hansbrough, last year's player of the year who really likes college, the return of this talented group had more to do with the realities of the NBA than with any pact they made among themselves - say, the way Florida's players did before they won their second straight championship in 2007.
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Posted: 4/4/09 6:00AM ET