Villanova crashes the Final Four

Three of the teams are Final Four regulars, programs that expect to be practising and playing in the first week of April, not attending end-of-season banquets.

North Carolina forward Tyler Hansbrough

Three of the teams are Final Four regulars, programs that expect to be practising and playing in the first week of April, not attending end-of-season banquets.

Trying to pull a post-season surprise is Villanova, a school that might not have the tradition of North Carolina, Michigan State or Connecticut but does have the biggest shocker in NCAA tournament history on its colourful resume.

Villanova once again will enter the Final Four as an underdog, though hardly the kind it was in 1985, when Rollie Massimino’s team was eighth-seeded and shot 78.6 per cent to knock a growing Georgetown dynasty off its pedestal.

This time, the Wildcats (30-7) are third-seeded, coached by Jay Wright (with Massimino almost certainly watching from the stands) and have a semifinal meeting set for Saturday against North Carolina.

The other semifinal will be between Connecticut and Michigan State, and there’s little doubt who will have home-court advantage in that one. The Final Four is coming to Detroit, and the Spartans (30-6) are playing only 90 miles from home.

A nice ray of sunshine for a state that has suffered more than most over the past year, when it comes to job losses and the recession.

“I’m just hoping we’re a silver lining in what’s been a little bit of a cloudy year for us,” Spartans coach Tom Izzo said. “I’m hoping that we’re the sunshine, I’m hoping we’re something to embrace, be involved with, and I hope they all support us because, you know, I haven’t even had time to think about UConn.”

The last team to play the Final Four in its home state was Duke. The Blue Devils lost to Arkansas in the 1994 title game in Charlotte, N.C.

Villanova is, no big surprise, the long shot among this group of four, listed at 8-1 at the Las Vegas Hilton race and sports book. Carolina is the 5-6 favourite, while UConn is 5-2 and Michigan State is 5-1.

Jay Kornegay, executive director of the Hilton sports book, said he expects big action on Michigan State because of the nationwide popularity of the Big Ten. And he says Villanova can’t exactly be looked at as the lovable underdog it was back in 1985 — or even the next George Mason, the 2006 long shot. Not possible considering the Wildcats come out of the Big East as a No. 3 seed.

“But we’ll see a buildup this week and the Cinderella could be created because they’ll be facing the tournament favourite,” he said.

Carolina (32-4) is an 8-point favourite against ’Nova, while UConn (31-4) is favoured by 4 over Michigan State.

Michigan State’s win over Louisville on Sunday prevented this Final Four from having three teams from the Big East, the way it happened when Villanova won it all in 1985. But there is still a chance of an all-Big East final.

“I’m worried about the next game,” Wright said.

“But if history repeats itself, I’ll take it.”

North Carolina makes its second straight Final Four and will try to make up for an inexplicably bad first half last year. The Tar Heels fell behind 40-12 to Kansas in the semifinals, a blowout so bad that CBS announcer Billy Packer said the game was over.

They rallied to within four but wound up losing. Carolina’s star, Tyler Hansbrough, decided to return for his senior season.

He got what he was looking for — as did the rest of the Tar Heels. They’re heading to their record 18th Final Four, and Ty Lawson is dominating after missing the first game of the tournament with a toe injury.

“It’s a different team,” senior Danny Green said. “It’s a new year, a new day. It’s a new game, and we know what our goals are.”

Carolina, Connecticut and Michigan State are all looking to join Florida as the second team with two championships in the 2000s.

Just Posted

Men posing as repo men attempt to steal vehicle in Red Deer County

Two men attempted to steal a utility vehicle from a Red Deer… Continue reading

Red Deerian spreads kindness with one card at a time

One Red Deerian wants to combat bullying by spreading kindness in the… Continue reading

Bowden baby in need of surgery

“Help for Alexis” Go Fund Me account

PHOTO: First Rider bus safety in Red Deer

Central Alberta students learned bus safety in the Notre Dame High School… Continue reading

WATCH: Annual Family Picnic at Central Spray and Play

Blue Grass Sod Farms Ltd. held the Annual Family Picnic at the… Continue reading

Woman has finger ripped off at West Edmonton Mall waterslide

SASKATOON — A Saskatchewan woman says she lost a finger after her… Continue reading

Uncertainty looms over Canada’s cannabis tourism, but ambitions are high

TORONTO — Longtime marijuana advocate Neev Tapiero is ready for the cannabis-driven… Continue reading

Feds mulling safeguards to prevent ‘surge’ of cheap steel imports into Canada

OTTAWA — The federal government extended an olive branch of sorts to… Continue reading

Ontario govt caps off summer session by passing bill to cut Toronto council size

TORONTO — The Ontario government passed a controversial bill to slash the… Continue reading

Updated:Italian bridge collapse sends cars plunging, killing 26

MILAN — A 51-year-old highway bridge in the Italian port city of… Continue reading

Saudi Arabia spat affecting Canadians embarking on hajj, community members say

TORONTO — Members of Canada’s Muslim community say recent tensions between Ottawa… Continue reading

Tug carrying up to 22,000 litres of fuel capsizes in Fraser River off Vancouver

VANCOUVER — The smell of diesel filled the air as crews worked… Continue reading

Nebraska executes first inmate using fentanyl

LINCOLN, Neb. — Nebraska carried out its first execution in more than… Continue reading

Most Read


Five-day delivery plus unlimited digital access for $185 for 260 issues (must live in delivery area to qualify) Unlimited Digital Access 99 cents for the first four weeks and then only $15 per month Five-day delivery plus unlimited digital access for $15 a month