Andre Miller and Ed Cota are similar in size with Miller having a slight edge. Miller is a much better rebounder and superior at driving to the hoop, while Cota might be a better outside shooter and has a better assist average (7.4 to 5.2). Ute senior Drew Hansen doesn't have the credentials of either Vince Carter or Shammond Williams, who will each play the shooting guard spot. Hansen is a tenacious defender, who took care of Arizona's guards last week. Williams will be trying to atone for last year's disastrous 1-of-13 shooting performance in a semifinal loss to Arizona.
Antawn Jamison is the best player in America and it will likely be Alex Jensen's assignment to guard him. It's quite a switch from last week when Jensen tailed guard Miles Simon on the perimeter. Jensen gets in more foul trouble than anyone else on the team and will have to be extra careful against Jamison. Finland's Hanno Mottola will be going against another foreigner who also wears No. 13 in Ademola Okulaja, who came from Germany by way of Nigeria. Both players can play on the perimeter and hit the threes, but they each will be counted on for their rebounding.
EDGE: NORTH CAROLINA
Michael Doleac (6-11, 265) has a size advantage over Makhtar Ndiaye (6-10, 231) and the Utes hope to exploit that with some inside passes to the big man. Also, since Ndiaye has a propensity to foul and Doleac has averaged just over 10 free throws per game in NCAA play, the Utes will look to take advantage there also. Rather than bring in freshman Jon Carlisle or freshman Nate Althoff, Majerus may switch Mottola over to
center when Doleac goes out like he did last week. Ndiaye is backed up by 7-foot freshman Brendan Haywood.
Utah got a great game from David Jackson last week against Arizona, so don't be surprised to see him getting extra time in helping guard Carter and Williams. Britton Johnsen has also seen a lot more time in postseason and his versatile game could be a factor against UNC. Otherwise, Jordie McTavish and Trace Caton will see a few limited minutes, while Carlisle - who hasn't played the last two games - may not get off the bench again. The Utes have better depth, but the Tar Heels have the best player off the bench in Williams, whose turn it is not to start (the Tar Heels rotate six starters in alphabetical order so a different player sitting out each game). Otherwise, they may only use one other reserve in Haywood.
Utah's Rick Majerus showed what a coaching genius he is in last week's upset of Arizona, and he's getting recognized for his ability as coach more than ever around the country. However, North Carolina's Bill Guthridge, an assistant to Dean Smith for 30 years, garnered coach of the year honors. Still there's a feeling that many coaches could have compiled a 34-3 record with
North Carolina's talent this year, while not many could have squeezed a 29-3 out of the Utes and led them into the Final Four.
After shocking Arizona by 25 last week, the Utes believe anything is possible. Their confidence is sky-high and they feel good about the gameplan they have for the Tar Heels. However, North Carolina is better balanced and less cocky than Arizona and has the experience of last year's Final Four in its favor. Also it may be hard for the Utes to match last week's performance, which they may have to do in order beat a team like North Carolina.
PREDICTION: NORTH CAROLINA 69, UTAH 65