NCAA Championship: And Then There Were Two

Joshua TroyerContributor IApril 6, 2009

DETROIT - APRIL 04:  A general view of the opening tip-off between the North Carolina Tar Heels and the Villanova Wildcats during the National Semifinal game of the NCAA Division I Men's Basketball Championship at Ford Field on April 4, 2009 in Detroit, Michigan.  (Photo by Andy Lyons/Getty Images)

Back in November, this NCAA Men's basketball season started with conversations of who would be crowned champion on the first Monday in April. 

There were talks of Notre Dame, Texas, and everyone's favorite, North Carolina. 

How would Kansas and Memphis, last year's final participants, be able to deal with all the exits to the NBA for a run at defending their spots? 

Could Duke recover from multiple early exits from the tournament to regain their position at the top of college basketball? 

Could UCLA finally get over the hump? 

Who would be the surprise team that no one could see coming? Well, they were Michigan State. 

Save a few fans in the Motor City area, no one would've predicted this outcome.  However, this team, playing in the Final Four, made the hometown fans proud. 

I fully expected Tom Izzo to have his team ready to play on Saturday night, but I gave them no chance to pull off what they accomplished.

Their suffocating defense and workmanlike attitude seem to sum up the feeling of the part of the country they represent. 

I expected Connecticut to dismantle Michigan State.  I was wrong.  Michigan State looked like the team that wanted the game more.  They looked like they had something to prove, and they left little doubt of who was the better team. 

Their bench outscored UConn's bench, they killed UConn on the offensive glass, they were meaner, they were more athletic, and they were the better team.

The other semifinal was far less intriguing.  Sure, going into it you could make a case for Villanova.  They were the hottest team in the tournament.  They were scrappy.  They were doing everything the needed to do to win the games. 

Enter North Carolina, and it was like watching a team full of younger brothers playing their older brothers.  North Carolina jumped out early and never looked back.

So, both these teams will meet up on Monday night in Detroit.  The team with the hometown feel versus the bully.

Do you go back to the game played at the same venue earlier this year when UNC destroyed MSU?  Regardless of the injuries, I say no chance. 

Even if MSU had lost that game in that manner, with all the current players, it's too long ago to judge this evening's game.  Too many things have happened since then. 

Michigan State was a shell of the team they are today, and UNC has changed quite a bit too.

I see this game on paper as the classic mismatch. 

Ty Lawson is the best point guard in the nation.  Wayne Ellington has one of the sweetest shots I've ever seen. 

Danny Green seems to have found his shot, and he's always a great defensive presence. 

Tyler Hansborough has won award on top of award, and has taken a bit of a back seat to the younger Ed Davis and Deon Thompson to make the team better. 

This is a team stacked full of future NBA talent.

Michigan State, on the other hand, has Travis Walton who plays great lock-down defense and puts his team in a position to win. 

Raymar Morgan has become a stud. 

Kalin Lucas and Chris Allen play great on the ball defense. 

Goran Suton does whatever you need him to do, and Delvon Roe and Draymond Green give MSU the mean on the inside to bang with anyone.

If you told me before the UConn/MSU game that Suton was going to have four points, seven rebounds, three turnovers, and four personal fouls, I would've told you two things. That's what I expect, and that's why MSU has no shot in the game. 

Well, he did, but they won in spite of it.

Michigan State does what it needs to do to win games, and they are impressive in how they are playing in this tournament.

Saying all that, I still can't look past how good UNC looks.  I can look past Roy Williams ability to get superior teams beat in the biggest games because of the level that Ty Lawson is playing.

If I were predicting the outcome of this game on Friday, I would have gone with a 20 plus point blow out in favor of UNC. 

Although I was impressed with what MSU was able to produce against UConn, I can't pick them to win against UNC. 

This will be the crowning event for a team that everyone thought to be the best from the beginning of the season. 

It will be a close game, that will be played at a frenetic pace at times, with UNC cutting down the nets as champions, 89-82.

Go ahead Michigan State, prove me wrong again.