Michigan State meets North Carolina Monday night for the the national title in a game featuring several interesting subplots.
The teams met in Ford Field in early December, with UNC winning 98-63. Michigan St. was without Goran Suton and playing for the third time in eight days.
Ty Lawson absolutely dominated Kalin Lucas in the first meeting, finishing with 17 points, eight assists, and seven steals. Lucas finished with six points on 2-10 shooting and dished out five assists.
Raymar Morgan and Chris Allen were the only two Spartans to play well against the Heels.
Although much has changed since these two teams first met, North Carolina still has a couple of clear advantages against Michigan State.
MSU has faced talented guards throughout the NCAA tournament, but has yet to face a team with a pair of dominant guards like North Carolina.
Ty Lawson is dynamic. He has the ability to absolutely control the game, and I expect him to do so Monday night. Wayne Ellington has shot the ball well in the tournament and could be the difference Monday.
UNC is used to playing up-tempo and will attempt to make Michigan State run. The Spartans like to push the tempo, but Tom Izzo probably doesn’t want to speed up the game against the Tar Heels.
The media has praised Michigan State for bringing joy to the economically-depressed in Michigan, creating additional drama surrounding the national title game.
I don’t put much stock into this theory, but fan support could be a difference Monday night. The crowd of 72, 000+ is expected to be at least 60-40 in favor of MSU, creating a virtual road game for North Carolina.
Although Tyler Hansbrough scored 25 points in the first meeting, Michigan State’s depth inside will make him work. Suton will likely start the game on Hansbrough, with Marquise Gray, Draymond Green, and Delvon Roe also playing key minutes against the big man.
I don’t like picking winners because I’m usually wrong, but I think North Carolina will win. I also think a potential defeat would have little impact on Michigan’s economy and the morale of its people, but what do I know?