Gary Gramling

Three Keys: Connecticut vs. Michigan State

  • Hoophead
  • Gary Gramling
  • April 3, 2009, 10:12 PM

Connecticut and Michigan State have been two of the nation's elite programs over the past decade. Here's what will decide which team survives to play in Monday's National Championship...

1. Goran Suton's Outside Play
What's the best way to beat a shot-blocking big man like UConn's Hasheem Thabeet? Make him play away from the basket by going with a big man who can shoot from the outside. Michigan State has just such a big man in Goran Suton. The 6' 10" center caught fire last weekend, scoring 20 points in MSU's win over Kansas and 19 (including 3 for 5 shooting from behind the arc) in Sunday's upset of Louisville. The Huskies may not even use Thabeet to guard Suton, which would give the Spartan big man a chance to shoot over a smaller defender.

2. On Point
This game will feature two of the best -- and most underappreciated -- point guards in the country going head-to-head. Michigan State's Kalin Lucas was the Big Ten player of the year, and he has the incredible quickness to blow by UConn's A.J. Price. But when Price has the ball, he has the strength to take Lucas into the lane and score on his trademark runner. And don't be surprised to see the Huskies play Price and freshman point guard Kemba Walker alongside each other often. Walker exploded for 23 points in 25 minutes in their Elite Eight victory over Missouri. And he has the quickness to stay in front of Lucas on the defensive end.

3. MSU Threes vs. UConn Freebies
Michigan State has shot very well from three in the Tournament, hitting .404 percent of their shots from behind the arc. Sixth man Durrell Summers has come up particularly big, hitting 7 of 10 from three over the past three games. Three-point shooting will be huge for the Spartans, as they'll have trouble scoring inside the arc against Connecticut's suffocating defense. As for the Huskies, they attack constantly on offense and always draw a lot of fouls. But they must make their free throws. UConn shoots a mediocre .680 percent from the line. If they have an off-night on those free throws, they'll be ripe for the upset.

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