Mich State made one more free throw at the end. Really though, where they won it is how they dictated tempo in the second half. Stopped the fast, frenetic pace that UT likes to play and got it into a half court game. Their defense was tough both on the perimeter and inside. They just made it hard for the Vols to score in the second half. I thought UT should have put it in J.P. Prince's hands more late in the game. Prince did look like he got all ball on the lay-up attempt by Raymar Morgan, but the call could have gone either way. The way they've let some calls go in this tournament, it could have been a no-call. Morgan made the first free throw to put the Spartans up, 70-69, and missed the second on purpose with 1.8 seconds left . That was a very smart move by Tom Izzo because the Vols, after calling timeout with 1.6 seconds left, had to start under their own basket and did not get a good shot at the basket as Prince heaved one from half court that was way short. Tom Izzo goes to his sixth Final Four. He's one of the top five coaches in the game. He's probably ahead of Brad Stevens at this point because this is Stevens' first Final Four. Izzo, Coach K and Huggins are my top three with Coach K on top followed by Izzo and Huggie Bear with Calipari right behind them. Pearl is getting closer. Stevens is a really fine young coach who has a number of good years ahead of him. Heck, all the coaches I just mentioned don't show any signs of slowing down. What a tourney. I predicted UT to win on twitter and they really could have. If Scotty Hopson makes both free throws with 11 seconds left, UT is up by a point and there is a lot more pressure on Michigan State to score. Still, Michigan State made the play when they needed to. Great pass to Morgan close to the basket which led to the foul by Prince on Morgan in the act of shooting. Tough one for the Vols, but still, a great season for UT.
Pearl has lifted that program to unprecedented levels. I don't love the guy, but he's done something special at Tennessee. He may be a candidate for other higher profile jobs in the future. He's an ambitious guy and may want to go to a Big Ten or Big East school. Still, Tennessee is flourishing under him. He's got'em in the NCAA mix every year. That's all you can ask for in a coach. Get there, go for broke. Tennessee did that this year in what was a very turbulent year with leading scorer Tyler Smith getting kicked off the team.
I wonder what UT would have done with Smith, arguably their best player. Could have gone farther, though it may have messed up the chemistry on the other hand. Tennessee really got it together in February and March. The expulsion of Smith could have been the best thing that happened to the team. Tough way to go home. It's never easy. Only NCAA tourney team is happy in April.
Now Michigan State plays Butler. Will be a clash of half court games. This should be a great matchup. Both teams playing so well right now. Butler will be at home, but there should be quite a few Mich. State fans in Indy. Both teams defend well. Butler really gets after it. Butler has the edge in the outside shooting department, but State has the inside edge. If Butler is hitting from the outside, they'll win. If they're not, and Mich. State is winning the battle inside and hitting their share of threes, the Spartans will win.