North Carolina vs. Michigan State
These two teams took completely different paths to Mo-Town. The Tar Heels started the season ranked number #1 overall and were considered superior to any other team in the field. They boast a number of players that are NBA prospects, including 2007 Player of the Year Tyler Hansbrough. Michigan State were underdogs throughout the season. In and out of the top ten, State was beaten up by injuries throughout the season. After a disappointing performance in the Big Ten Tournament, few expected much success in the NCAA tournament. The Tar Heels and State do have one prior meeting earlier this season, when UNC owned the Spartans in Detroit 98-63. However, that game means nothing now.
The center of both teams strength is their coaching. Roy Williams and Tom Izzo are legends and have proved again and again why they belong in this game. If you look at each team, they are both very similar. Both are very balanced on offense and play outstanding defense. They can run with the best of them and kill you in the half-court.
The most interesting area of the game I believe is going to be on the glass. Michigan State played exceptionally well against Thabeet and UConn’s big men. UNC does not have the height that UConn does. As stated before, both teams play outstanding defense. The game may come down to who gets the most second chance opportunities at shots via offensive rebounds.
Michigan State center Goran Suton has been playing like a monster during the tournament. He posted a double-double against Louisville and scored 20 against Kansas. However, Suton didn’t play all that well against Thabeet in the UConn game, scoring only 4 points and grabbing 7 rebounds. In order for Sparty to win this game, Suton has to play big. Especially against Tyler Hansbrough.
The bench play of Michigan State also must be exceptional. Against UConn, the Spartan bench contributed 33 points and 14 rebounds. This will be essential to beating a talented North Carolina that isn’t as deep and relies heavily on their starting five.
On UNC’s side, they have talent. Too much talent. Ty Lawson and Tyler Hansbrough lead a balanced attack that can score from anywhere on the court. North Carolina’s key to success is spreading the ball around. Michigan State’s defense is too good to be beat by one person. If the Tar Heels can get Hansbrough working in the post, Ty Lawson driving to the paint and getting to the line, Wayne Ellington hitting jump shots, and Danny Green knocking down threes, the Tar Heels won’t be stopped.
When the dust settles and a victor is crowned, the 2009 NCAA National Champions will be: North Carolina. In their four losses this season, the Tar Heels have been beaten by the hot shooting of one or two players each game. Against Boston College, it was 25 and 22 points by Rice and Sanders, respectively. Against Wake Forest, it was 34 points from Jeff Teague and 20 from McFarland. In the Maryland game, it was Vasquez’s 35 and Tucker’s 22. Finally, against Florida State, it was the Toney Douglas show, who put up 27. Frankly, I don’t think State has two players that can score more than 20 points against the Tar Heels (maybe one.) The last time the Spartans had two players over 20 points? January 29th against lowly Iowa. The best way to beat the Tar Heels is with hot shooting, in the 4 losses, the Heels opponents averaged 84.5 points a game. State averages 72 points a game.
In three of their for losses, the Tar Heels lost by 3 points. The Heels won’t lose this game, in fact they will win. By three points.
North Carolina: 82 Michigan State: 79