So we’ve got Michigan State against North Carolina. Will blog more on it later today, but for now, I was impressed at how both teams matched their opponents in terms of intensity. Then they added the shooting touch (in UNC’s case, it was more about a few timely buckets as they shot poorly in the second half) and pulled away. For the Spartans, offensive rebounding also stood out against the likes of Hasheem Thabeet and Jeff Adrien. Also, considering the number of Spartan fans who will pick up tickets from the departing UConn and Villanova crowd, and the crowd advantage for Michigan State figures to be even bigger on Monday night. Will it be enough to overcome the Tar Heels’ obvious talent edge and willingness to back it up with the requisite effort? Not sure, but what a moment for Detroit and the state either way, as Andy Katz notes. But Arthur Staple warns us not to read too much into Michigan State’s run beyond a typically gritty and battle-tested team under Tom Izzo. True, we do frequently blur the line about what sports can do for society as a whole. That said, it is nice to see the Spartans playing virtually at home for the national title in a region suffering mostly because of factors its people don’t control.
Lastly, don’t think that UConn and Villanova both losing tonight means that the Big East couldn’t deliver the goods this year. It was an unbelievably deep, tough conference which deservedly got recognized with three top seeds and two teams getting this far. As Clark Kellogg said on the air, it’s about who you play during the Big Dance, not the league as a whole. On this occasion, UNC and Michigan State were teams well-suited to playing physical basketball and then going outside for jumpers. These results were not upsets- certainly in UNC’s case as a top-5 team in the country, but even Michigan State won the Big Ten regular-season title. Both of the vanquished semifinalists should get back to this stage in the near future as they consistently recruit well and perform at a high level. Still, they will each lose multiple starters to graduation and quite possibly the NBA to boot. UConn also has that scandal to deal with, and Jim Calhoun has apparently left the door open to retirement. I hope he doesn’t go just yet, because he can clearly still coach and it’s unclear if any really big NCAA violations have occurred.
Enough rambling, more on the Xs and Os later. Plus some baseball predictions which are hopefully more accurate than my brackets. Although, I am now in facebook’s top 8%! Yet barely in the top-30,000 entries… sigh.