After three weeks and 62 NCAA Tournament games, it all comes down to Monday Night in Detroit for the 2009 National Championship.
The Michigan State Spartans are the feel-good story playing in front of a home crowd at Ford Field in a city and state that has been rocked for years by a souring auto industry. If you thought Sparty had a large contingent on Saturday, just wait until Monday.
But many Tar Heel fans will be making the trip from parts all over (they are the nation's most popular team) hoping for their second title in five years.
It is only fitting these two teams meet for the championship as they are arguably the top two programs over the past five seasons.
Now that we have set the stage, lets move to that 800-pound gorilla over in the corner...North Carolina beat Michigan State by 35 in December in the stadium. But What Does That Mean?
Not as much as the CBS commentators and ESPN talking heads will make it out to be.
Sparty had just played three games in four days the previous weekend and Tom Izzo was also without center Goran Suton. After the loss, Michigan State promptly went on a 12-game winning streak, beating Texas, Kansas, Ohio State, Illinois, and Penn State.
But the blowout win in December does mean North Carolina has a lot of confidence heading into Monday Night. The Spartans know they have their work cut out for them even before the tip, but I think that is the way Izzo wants it.
I have said it all Tournament, if North Carolina is hitting their shots, then they are almost impossible to beat. In all four of their losses this season, they have shot less than 45 percent.
They shot 48 percent back in the December win and also forced 22 turnovers from Michigan State who averages just 13 on the season.
North Carolina's much maligned defense has been much improved in the Tournament allowing more than 70 points just once so far after giving up 76 per game in ACC play.
The Tar Heels held Villanova to 33 percent shooting and eight points under their season average.
Michigan State has the best X's and O's coach in the nation, momentum from winning two straight as underdogs, and the home town crowd behind them. But that does not make up for the talent difference at every position.
Michigan State will have to grab nearly every loose ball, close out on shooters, and slow down the pace to pull off the upset.
I think this game needs to be in the low 70s and Carolina have an off night shooting for Sparty to pick up their second title this decade.
But it will be the Tar Heels, not the Spartans, matching Florida with two titles capping off Tyler Hansbrough's college career as one of the best ever.
Pick: North Carolina
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