If a Michigan State national championship helps to uplift the hopes of a troubled state and inspire its people then I’m all for it. I don’t always root for the Spartans since I didn’t go to school there or live in the state, but I will cheer for them wholeheartedly when the game tips off in Detroit on Monday night.
I am certain I will not be alone cheering on the Spartans. It is likely, for at least one night, they will become America’s Team. They also have a former star and national treasure, Magic Johnson, sitting court side.
The stars have aligned. This is Michigan State’s year—exactly 30 years after Magic lead them to their first national championship. Coincidentally, if not providentially, the game is being played in the Motor City, during the worst period in the history of the American auto industry, an industry which is essentially headquartered in the state of Michigan.
Cheering for the Spartans is not just the patriotic thing to do, it's the smart thing to do; they are a team of destiny.
While destiny will play a part in Michigan State’s victory, it's not like the Spartans enter the game with nothing else. They are led by one of the most underrated great coaches in NCAA tournament history in Tom Izzo.
This is Izzo’s fifth trip to the Final Four and his second time in the championship game. The last time, the Spartans won it all in 2000. They are a smart, rugged team that rebounds and defends well. And they hit clutch shots when they have to.
They have also now beaten two of the tournament’s No. 1 seeds in consecutive games, handling Louisville last week and Connecticut Saturday night.
I have nothing against the University of North Carolina, its players, or its fans. The team has talent at every position. They also have a great coach in Roy Williams, a rich basketball tradition with four NCAA titles, and an all-time college star in Tyler Hansbrough.
Further, the Tar Heels also have a convincing victory this season against Michigan State on the very same Ford Field court in December.
North Carolina returns to the Final Four for the second consecutive year intent on erasing the pain of last year's loss to Kansas in the semifinals. Kansas would then go on to win the national championship by beating Memphis.
North Carolina is on its own mission. But at game time, UNC will be the enemy, as the Tar Heels are swimming against a tide of public sentiment that favors Michigan State for all of the obvious reasons.
I’d like to believe that destiny will also play a hand in the outcome as well.