NCAA Championship Game: Michigan State-North Carolina Preview, Analysis, and Prediction

Note: This post is from 2009. To view our 2010 March Madness coverage, use the following links:


This post will analyze the Michigan State-North Carolina NCAA Championship game using a statistical analysis provided by the Game Predictor at, which is powered by For an analysis of how this program works, hop over to the first individual game Sweet 16 preview I put out for UConn-Purdue. The methodology is all explained there.

From the Maui Invitational to March Madness, it all comes down to Championship Monday. One of the participants in this year’s Mens NCAA Championship Game was excepted: North Carolina. The other, Michigan State, surprised a lot of people (but not me) by surpassing Louisville to even make it to Detroit for the Final Four. They then surprised even more people (including me) by knocking off UConn Saturday night.

Now, the Spartans and head coach Tom Izzo have an opportunity to bring even more joy to the city of Detroit by capturing the 2009 NCAA Championship. All that stands in their way is the most talented team in America and the team that has been more dominant than any other during the NCAA Tournament. Monday night’s game will be, undoubtedly, the most challenging yet for Izzo, Kalin Lucas, and the mighty Spartans.

But so was Saturday night’s game against UConn, and Michigan State was able to impose their will in an 82-73 victory.

Michigan State-North Carolina Preview, Prediction, Spread, TimeAnd so was last weekend’s game against Louisville, but the Spartans took the Cardinals behind the woodshed in the second half and made all fans of Big Ten basketball proud in a 64-52 victory.

The question now is: can these magic Spartans pull another unexpected rabbit out of their hat with an upset over North Carolina?

I’m about to put my 12-2 record predicting all of the games since the Sweet 16 on the line. I went against Michigan State in their Final Four matchup with UConn. It will take a lot for me to pick against them again.

Unfortunately for all of the Big Ten and Spartan supporters who will be cheering on the guys in green Monday night, North Carolina has proven there are a lot of reasons to like their chances. Will it be enough to overcome the decidedly home court-like advantage that Michigan State will enjoy on Monday night? That’s what we’re here to find out. (Or, at least, predict.)

First, a few of the specifics for the 2009 NCAA Mens Basketball Championship game between Michigan State and North Carolina:

Michigan State v North Carolina National Championship Game Preview and Prediction

(FYI…the spread and over-under info are the initial lines from from Saturday night. You may want to check there for the most up-to-date info.)

And now, let’s head over to Game Predictor and see how Michigan State and North Carolina match up with respect to the same five statistical categories we have used to analyze every game thus far since the Sweet 16:

  • Offensive Efficiency: North Carolina – 1.155 | Michigan State – 1.058
  • Defensive Efficiency: North Carolina – 0.932 | Michigan State – 0.925
  • Assist/TO Ratio: North Carolina – 1.416 | Michigan State – 1.181
  • Free Throw %: North Carolina – 0.765 | Michigan State – 0.698
  • Defensive Field Goal %: North Carolina – 0.414 | Michigan State – 0.414

Michigan State-North Carolina Preview, Prediction, Time, Spread

So the Tar Heels win three out of the five categories, with the teams being identical in terms of the field goal percentage they give up. For anyone who has been following these predictions, we know that Game Predictor will choose the Tar Heels. They are the higher seed and have the advantage in the stat categories. The question is, how strong will the prediction be? Let’s find out:

  • Odds to Win Game: North Carolina – 59.2% | Michigan State – 40.8%
  • Most Likely Final Score: North Carolina – 74.7 | Michigan State – 71.8
  • Odds to Cover Spread: (I did this before the spread had been posted. Use the link above to go to Game Predictor and analyze it on your own, using your own stats, if you really want to know. I don’t bet on sports, so I don’t really care that much.)
  • Confidence Level: 2 Stars

North Carolina-Michigan State Preview, Prediction, Time, Spread

Now that we know how Game Predictor sees the game, with no real surprises, it’s time for a little analysis and prediction.

Before we get into the nitty-gritty, let’s discuss one thing that does not matter heading into Monday night’s MSU-UNC game:

Back in December, North Carolina beat Michigan State 98-63 at Ford Field in Detroit

A lot of people are going to point to the Michigan State-North Carolina game from earlier this season as a reason for why North Carolina can and should beat Michigan State on Monday. Why? Same teams + same season + same venue (should) = same result…right?

Not so fast, and here are the reasons:

  • In December, the announced attendance was 25,267 out of the 70,000 person capacity at Ford Field. Monday night, there will be 70,000 strong at the game and the vast majority will be partial to the Spartans. Michigan State may not be in East Lansing, but it will be as close to a home game as possible for a game like this in terms of fan support.
  • Goran Suton did not play in the first meeting. He was out with a sprained knee. Suton did not have a good game against UConn Saturday, but he was huge in the Spartans’ wins over Kansas and Louisville.
  • Michigan State came into the game having only two days rest after playing three games in four nights at the Old Spice Classic in Lake Buena Vista, Florida. After the game, Tom Izzo said, “The blame goes on me for the scheduling. We were dead.” The Tar Heels had finished up their championship run in the Maui Invitational on November 26th and then played a tune-up game against UNC-Asheville that resulted in a relaxing 116-48 victory. Ty Lawson smartly said during the press conference after the Villanova game that the previous game would have no bearing on Monday night.
  • Kalin Lucas scored six points on 2-10 shooting. Have you seen him play in the tournament? Do you think he’ll do that again? I don’t think so.

Okay, now that we have that out of the way, let’s take a look at where each team has an advantage with three reasons why each team will win.

Three Reasons Why North Carolina Will Beat Michigan State

1 – Plain and simple, North Carolina at its best is better than Michigan State at its best.

Can anyone truly, honestly dispute this?

If both of these teams play their absolute best basketball of the season, North Carolina will win. But luckily for the Spartans, the game is not played in such a vacuum. Many people thought Michigan State and Kansas were an even match, and the Spartans came out on top. Most people gave Louisville and UConn the advantage over Michigan State, but the Spartans still came out on top.

Nearly everyone, again, will give North Carolina the advantage over Michigan State — so can the Spartans come out on top?

Well, they can…but they have to force the Tar Heels to play below their ability. And while this is certainly possible in a one game scenario, you would lose more money that you’d win betting against the team with superior ability.Ty Lawson - UNC-MSU preview, prediction, spread pick, game time

An old adage of winning in the NCAA Tournament is that usually the teams with the most NBA-level talent end up going the furthest. North Carolina certainly has more players projected to make an impact at the next level than Michigan State. Again, this does not necessarily mean that North Carolina will win, but their chances of doing so are certainly better.

2 – Ty Lawson is the best player on the floor.

I realize that this somewhat piggybacks on the last one, but it’s an important distinction. Having a lot of talent is great, but if that talent does not function together as a unit, it does not matter. The reason why Michigan State has beaten Louisville and UConn is that Kalin Lucas has been an oustanding floor general and has guided the talent on the floor with him to play better team basketball than its opponents.

Ty Lawson is doing the exact same thing, and now we know why everyone was so concerned about his toe injury. This guy is magnificent.

And as good as Kalin Lucas is, Ty Lawson is still a notch above. I love Kalin, but he is not as consistent a shooter nor quite as effective a playmaker in the open court as Lawson. A quick comparison:

  • Points per game: Ty Lawson – 16.3 | Kalin Lucas – 14.6
  • Assists per game: Ty Lawson – 6.5 | Kalin Lucas – 4.6
  • Field Goal %: Ty Lawson – .542 | Kalin Lucas – .394
  • Free Throw %: Ty Lawson – .815 | Kalin Lucas – .814
  • Free Throw Attempts per game: Ty Lawson – 5.2 | Kalin Lucas – 5.52
  • 3 Point %: Ty Lawson – .485 | Kalin Lucas – .388

Look, I love Kalin Lucas. (In fact, I’ve now said that I love him in two consecutive paragraphs, but it’s just a basketball crush and nothing more, I promise.) And you can chalk up Lawson’s advantage in points and assists to the style of play North Carolina employs. Surprisingly, the more slight-of-frame Lucas actually get to the foul line more than Lawson, which proves the kid’s toughness and ability to get into the teeth of the defense. (As well as the fact that Michigan State has played in a few more close games.)

However, those shooting percentages are difficult to ignore. In a one game scenario, either of these guys could be hot or cold. The question is, who is more likely to be hot and who is more likely to be cold? The stats say Ty Lawson is more likely to a great shooting night.

I think the frontcourts for these two teams are very similar (assuming either Raymar Morgan or Goran Suton shows up), and that guard production will likely decide the outcome; if this is true, then it’s hard to choose against the Tar Heels and Lawson.

3 – The Tar Heels have been on a mission since this time last year.

After North Carolina got royally spanked by Kansas in the Final Four last year, the Tar Heels’ terrific trio of Ty Lawson, Wayne Ellington, and Tyler Hansbrough all decided to come back for another run. Without question, they had one primary goal in mind: win the national title.

Now, I realize that every top echelon team (Michigan State included) enters a season hoping to win a national title. But the Tar Heels entered thNorth Carolina v Michigan State preview, prediction, spread picke season expecting to win a national title, and knowing they had the talent to do it. Plus, they had the extra motivation of erasing last year’s Final Four embarrassment. They did that tonight by beating Villanova, and now they have one more step left to complete their season-long journey.

I think this is a big difference between these two teams.

North Carolina started the season as the #1 team in America in both polls, with no other team receiving a first place vote. Then they went out and dominated the majority of their competition and are peaking at just the right time. Michigan State started out at #6 and #7 in the two polls, had an up and down season, but they too are peaking at the right time. But I get a small sense to happy-to-be-here from Michigan State. I think their goal was to make it to Detroit entering the season. North Carolina’s goal was to win it in Detroit.

You will see below that I think the home court advantage is big for Michigan State, but I also think the confidence, belief, and season-long championship tunnel-vision of North Carolina is a big advantage for the Tar Heels. If North Carolina was going to lay an egg, I think they would have done it tonight in the Final Four; but they stared down the evil memory of last year and overcame it emphatically. Now freed from that pressure, there is only one more sprint to the only finish line they were targeting all season: the National Championship.

A supremely talented team that is on a mission, and peaking as they approach their mission’s achievement, is extremely dangerous. North Carolina heading into Monday night is extremely dangerous.

Three Reasons Why Michigan State Will Beat North Carolina

1 – Michigan State can work the offensive glass and control teams in transition

Watch North Carolina play and you are likely to wear our your neck going back and forth trying to keep up with the action. The Tar Heels push the ball and push the ball and push the ball some more. If you are going to beat North Carolina, you absolutely have to be able to play strong transition defense. Surprisingly though, you do not have to dominate the Tar Heels on the glass to win.

Case in point, in their four losses this year:

And earlier tonight, Villanova outrebounded North Carolina 50-46, but still lost 83-69. So clearly, rebounding by itself is not a key to beating North Carolina. But here is what is a key: getting solid offensive rebounding from your frontcourt players, while your backcourt guys are heading back to slow down the North Carolina transition. A deeper look at the Carolina losses this year:

  • Maryland had 12 offensive rebounds, seven of which came from frontcourt players
  • Wake Forest had 8 offensive rebounds, all of which came from frontcourt players
  • Boston College had 14 offensive rebounds, 10 of which came from frontcourt players
  • Florida State had 12 offensive rebounds, 10 of which came from frontcourt players

And tonight, Villanova had 19 offensive rebounds, but 10 of them came from backcourt players Dwayne Anderson, Scottie Reynolds, Reggie Redding, and Corey Fisher. With those guys battling inside for offensive rebounds, North Carolina was able to get into transition and get open looks. The result was 83 points and 11-22NCAA Championship Game preview, prediction, spread pick, time, analysis shooting from downtown.

Look at the Oklahoma-UNC game. The Sooners tied the Tar Heels on the glass 27-27 overall and beat them 10-6 on the offensive end, with all of those offensive rebounds coming from frontcourt guys. The Sooners held the Tar Heels to 72 points, which is 11 less than the Heels scored in any other tournament game and 17 fewer than their season average. Unfortunately for Oklahoma, they simply could not hit a shot themselves (2-19 from downtown) and only scored 60.

If Michigan State shoots 2-19 from downtown, obviously they have no chance. They had a poor shooting night tonight and still went 6-19 from deep. But if they can follow Oklahoma’s blueprint for slowing down UNC’s pace, the Spartans can win a game played in the 70s.

Can they follow that blueprint?

Well, just look at tonight — because they did. Against a much bigger UConn team, the Spartans were outrebounded only 41-40 and won on the offensive side 16-15. Most importantly, neither Kalin Lucas nor Travis Walton contributed even one rebound to the excellent effort on the offensive glass. What they did do is get back and slow down AJ Price and the Huskies’ running game. UConn only shot 42.4% overall and 2-6 from downtown, both stats proving that they did not get many easy shots, most of which typically come out of transition.

2 – To beat North Carolina you must have guards who can score; Michigan State does

Let’s take a look at North Carolina’s three losses again:

  • G Greivis Vasquez scored 35 points on 13-24 shooting and 5-10 from downtown in the Maryland loss
  • Gs Tyrese Rice and Rakim Sanders combined for 47 points on 16-28 shooting and 6-13 from downtown in the Boston College loss
  • G Jeff Teague scored 34 points on 9-17 shooting and 3-4 from downtown in the Wake Forest loss
  • G Toney Douglas scored 27 points on 10-18 shooting and 3-8 from deep in the Florida State loss in the ACC Tournament.

I actually thought that this was a reason why Villanova would have a chance against North Carolina. And while Scottie Reynolds, Reggie Redding, and Corey Fisher combined for 45 points, they were a combined 16-46 from the field. Villanova’s shot selection on Saturday night was, in a word, atrocious.NCAA Championship Game preview, prediction, spread pick, analysis

Michigan State is a much more disciplined team offensively, and should use better shot judgment and be more patient to get open looks. And while I do not think you will see any of their players individually match the output that Vasquez, Rice, Sanders, Teague, and Douglas had in leading their teams to victory, Michigan State does have five players capable of scoring in double-digits and hitting outside shots on a nightly basis: Kalin Lucas, Chris Allen, Durrell Summers, Travis Walton, and Korie Lucious.

Kalin Lucas is the most consistent of the bunch, and he will have to score points on Monday night. He has scored at least 10 in the Spartans’ last four tournament games, including 21 Saturday against UConn. I think Lucas needs to score in the 15-20 range for the Spartans to win, but most importantly they must get balance from these five guys.

The biggest question mark about North Carolina throughout the season was their defense, but they have proven over the last couple of games that they can step it up and play solid D. By no means is it a foregone conclusion that Michigan State’s guards can score enough points to keep up with the Tar Heels, but they do have the talent to do it, which is why they have a chance Monday night.

Without significant point production from the backcourt, you simply do not beat North Carolina; the Spartan guards need to bring it Monday night, and they are capable.

3 – The home court advantage and close game experience

I think these are a big deal. A very big deal.

North Carolina is a team with incredible “spurtability” that likes to lay the hammer down on opponents — a lot like they did against the Spartans early in the year, and a lot like they did against Villanova Saturday. North Carolina jumped out on the Wildcats early, and ‘Nova was never able to get back into it. It looked to me like Villanova was playing as if everything was going against them, and the self-fulfilling prophecy proved true.

The Tar Heels average point differential on the season is 17.8 points (89.8-72.0), so they are used to imposing their will and putting teams away. There is no question in my mind that North Carolina will make some runs on Monday night. They are too good and too talented not to. But with Michigan State having a raucous Detroit crowd willing them on at every opportunity, the Tar Heels will be hard pressed to “knock out” the Spartans.

For a team that gets lots of easy victories, being in a knock-down, drag-out fight can sometimes be challenging. Certainly, North Carolina has won close games this year (79-76 over Virginia Tech, 69-65 over Miami, for example), but they have only played 10 games decided by 10 points or less, going 6-4 in these contests. Michigan State, on the other hand, has been grinding out games all season long. The Spartans average point differential is 9.0 (72.0-63.0) and they are 12-2 in games decided by 10 points or less.

The point differential is obviously a double-edged sword. North Carolina’s shows its potential for dominance, which is why they are about a touchdown favorite on Monday night, and I don’t think anyone would walk away from Monday night completely shocked if North Carolina puts on a dominating performance; we’ve just seen it too often from them in the tournament. However, if Michigan State can battle and keep it close, I like the Spartans’ chances. They are used to playing in closer games and have a great record when it comes to pulling them out.

And that’s where the crowd comes in.

I saw first hand how much a crowd can will a team to stay in a game when the Spartans played in Bloomington this year. Michigan State is one of the finalists for the NCAA title, and Indiana fielded perhaps NCAA Championship Game preview, prediction, spread pick, analysis, game timethe worst team in school history. Yet, somehow, the Hoosiers were able to make it only a 5-point game, losing 64-59, with Indiana outscoring the Spartans 32-30 in the second half. With such a great disparity in talent, the Hoosiers used grit, determination, will, and the energy of the home crowd to fight until the end.

There is no question that while North Carolina is the more talented and explosive team, that Michigan State is far closer to the Tar Heels than Indiana was to Michigan State. A little more talent and Indiana might have pulled off the upset. For Michigan State, we have seen their grit, determination, and will — and we know how crazy the Ford Field crowd will be for them Monday night. I think all of those factors will help the Spartans keep it close; and if they do, as the stats prove, I think the Spartans have an advantage in a close game.

Okay, so now that we’ve run down three reasons why each team will win, it’s time to hop onto one side of the fence and choose which of these two teams will actually be the victor, and the 2009 NCAA Mens Basketball Champion, on Monday night. However, it’s not quite as easy as just picking one or the other.

My gut says that Tom Izzo’s game-planning brilliance, the Spartans’ grit, Kalin Lucas’ leadership, and the support of the Detroit crowd will keep this game close. And in a close game I like the Spartans, as I just mentioned. However, my head says that North Carolina has such a fierce combination of talent and focus that they are simply unbeatable by any team in college basketball right now. Yet, my heart says Michigan State because of my affinity for their coach and my desire to see the Big Ten gain back some of the prestige that has been lost in recent seasons.

It would be easy to go with my head on this one and make the “safe” pick. However, I’m going with the Spartans, and unlike during the games on Saturday night (when I picked UConn and UNC to win) I can actually cheer with my pick on Monday.Michigan State-North Carolina preview, prediction, analysis, spread pick, time

But in the end, I’m not just picking the Spartans because I want to. I saved a very important “why they will win” reason for the end, and here it is:

I trust Tom Izzo more in big games than I trust Roy Williams.

Both are great coaches — Hall of Famers, in fact — and both have won championships before. And while both coaches have had successes and failures in big spots, there is just something visceral about Tom Izzo’s fiery, underdog, energetic style that I buy into more than Roy Williams’ style. Unlike the analysis above, I don’t have lots of stats to back my support for Izzo up, and you are well within your right to say I am biased on this one. But I picked against Izzo in the Michigan State-Connecticut game, and I’m not about to do it again on Monday.

Plus, I think an overzealous North Carolina fan may have unwittingly jinxed the Tar Heels.

I just went to the Wikipedia pages for both Tom Izzo and Roy Williams to examine their career records for something quantitative to back up by claim of trusting Izzo more in big games.

Here is a screen shot of what the section on Izzo’s career coaching record looked like:

Michigan State-UNC Preview, Spread Pick, Prediction, Game Time

And here is a screen shot of what the section on Williams’ career coaching record looked like:

MSU-UNC Preview, Prediction, Spread Pick

Notice anything funny about the Roy Williams page? Someone already edited it to say “National Championship” for this season. (If you go to the page now, it very well could be edited, but that’s why I did the screen capture. Readers of this site know that I like to have fun with Photoshop from time to time, but I promise you that this is exactly how the pages looked.)

Hmm…it’s 1:NCAA Championship game preview, prediction, spread pick, analysis20 am Central Time on Sunday morning as I write this. Looks like somebody jumped the gun bit declaring a winner. And while it’s not the same as the New England Patriots copyrighting 19-0 before the Super Bowl, it’s still jinx-worthy in my book.

Add up North Carolina’s three reasons and the Game Predictor outcome, and then add up Michigan State’s three reasons plus Izzo over Williams, and the two teams are knotted at 4-4. Throw in the jinx and the tie is broken.

Prediction: Michigan State completes a storybook run to the National Championship by winning a close, hard-fought game on Monday night against the backdrop of a city that loves its Spartans, and certainly deserves some joy in the midst of its terrible economic woes.

I can’t wait for this one. It’s going to be one hell of a championship game.

Who do you think will win the 2009 NCAA Mens Basketball Championship game?

  • Michigan State (59%, 356 Votes)
  • North Carolina (41%, 249 Votes)

Total Voters: 605

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About Jerod Morris

I love words. I write for Copyblogger and founded MSF, The Assembly Call, & Primility. I practice yoga, eat well, & strive for balance. I love life. Namaste. Say hi on Twitter, Facebook, & G+.


  1. Great article – Jinx city in FULL effect!

    Go Spartans!

  2. Did you notice that when the teams on wikipedia won the championship, it says Champions. The other’s just say what game they made it to. Is anybody disputing that North Carolina will pay monday night in the national championship game, it is clearly NOT marked as Champions, it just says they made it to the national championship, which they did, by beating every other team by double digits. I guess that why you guys pull for Michigan state, because you don’t know any better :). Monday night will be back to reality for Michigan state, and they will loose by double digits. Count on it. You haven’t played a team on a mission yet, with far superior talent. If you think Uconn and louisville were tough you’re sadly mistaken.

    • @uncfan,

      You need to check yourself. Double digit loss? Get real. Now that UConn and Nova fans are selling their tickets, most of them will be snapped up by MSU fans. The stadium will be 75% at least MSU fans. Homecourt advantage is a huge factor. The game will be a hard hitting close, physical game in our backyard. Sounds like exactly the matchup that MSU wants. Keep talking, because thats all the motivation we need.

      • @sparty, any questions? Learn your team, learn your sport, and you won’t make incorrect comments. I told you 3 days ago it would be a double digit win, what happened? Do you still think I need to “check myself”? sparty looked good until they ran into a good team, for the 2nd time this year. Uconn and Louisville are not UNC caliber teams this year. I guess you know that now. Homecourt advantage means nothing. 50,000 MSU fans at ford field is nothing compared to 9,000 Duke fans at cameron, but you guys don’t know that because you don’t play there. Need anymore motivation, or would you like some tissues?

    • @uncfan, All I know is that whatever MSU fan updated Izzo’s page was clear to say “Final Round”, which can not be misconstrued by anyone as claiming they are champions. “National Championship” sure sounds more to me like a proclamation of victory than simply stating the game they are in.

      At the end of the day, it’s all syntax really — and completely meaningless to what will happen on Monday night. Plus, it was 3:00 am when I saw it and my head was swimming with numbers and matchups, so I didn’t really study it. My gut reaction was that UNC was being proclaimed the champs so I ran with it as a fun way to end the post.

      I like the Spartans for the reasons stated above: crowd advantage, experience and success in close games, ability to rebound and play transition D, and Izzo. North Carolina certainly will be a stern test, and is rightly favored for a reason. But it’s one game for all the marbles, and I just think the Spartans have what it takes and are on the kind of roll necessary to pull off the upset.

      But you are right uncfan — Carolina has superior talent and is on a mission. I would not be surprised if that is too much for Michigan State to overcome. But if I’m picking publicly, which obviously I am, I trust Izzo and the Spartans more on Monday night.

  3. Spartans and Big Ten will prevail over the snobby East Coast media bias that exists! Go Sparty!

  4. Vols Fan says:

    I hope MSU wins, as I’m most always a favorite of the underdog. I just wanna see North Carolina silenced.

  5. David Pendergraft says:

    If you lookat the wikipedia listing forRoy Williams,it clearly states “NCAA Champions”for 2005 and “National Champiomship” as in the made it to the championship gamefor this year. Nice try, but it’s correctly statedand there’s no jinx there!!!

    • @David Pendergraft, you are correct, as I now look at it with eyes that have had the benefit of sleep. Still, if I were Tom Izzo, I’d cut it out (minus the section from 2005 that says “NCAA Champions” to reduce confusion) and hang it in the locker room. Athletes have found motivation from far less slights, manufactured or not. Anything possible to help foster that us-against-the-world mentality will help.

  6. brian kennedy says:

    plan and simple only way msu wins this game is if they feed off the crowd which is predicted but then you gotta have all your players suton morgan roe allen luces louchis green and gray all on the verry top of there game on both sides of the ball but i think what it comes down to is the unc will pound the ball down low and draw fouls with one of the best free throw shooting teams in the ncaa they will drive to the whole dish down low and kick it back outside with the great shooters they have there in ellington and green pretty much msu is going to have to battle and battle to get there points and battle even more to stop unc from beating them up inside and out and stay of foul trouble all in all this games gonna either be close to the end or a blow out.

    • @brian kennedy, you have done two things with your comment:

      1 – Succeeded in producing the longest comment ever that includes only one punctuation mark.

      2 – Reminded everyone of a very big key in this game that I did not get to above: North Carolina’s ability to draw contact, get to the free throw line, and convert. This is something that gives me pause, now that I have already declared MSU the eventual winners. UNC is certainly proficient at getting to the line, and they are one of the best free throw shooting teams in America. And I think we all would agree that free throw shooting is often the difference in close games.

      However, the Tar Heels still only went 6-4 in games decided by 10 points or less. The Spartans do not have quite the same percentage shooting free throws as North Carolina, but they pull out a better percentage of their close games: 12 out of 14 decided by 10 or less. And they’ve looked damn good knocking down big free throws in the tourney.

      One thing is for sure: Lucas, Walton, Lucious, Allen, and Summers HAVE to step up. This quintet needs to score at least 45-50 points combined, I think, for the Spartans to have a chance. The only teams that have beaten UNC are ones that have gotten tremendous backcourt play. I happen to think these guys are capable, especially with the home crowd behind them and this being their third game at Ford Field this season (same for UNC, I realize).

      And if they keep it close, as I said, I like the Spartans to find a way to pull it out against a team used to coasting the last ten minutes of games.

  7. brian kennedy says:

    o and i have unc takeing the title in motown and msu going home at least it will be a short trip back to east lansing GO HEELS

    • tarholehater says:

      @brian kennedy,

      You’re a tarhole alright, typical, unwarranted arrogance.

      You can join the entire rams club (lol) aroud 11:30 tonight, I can hear the mass boo hooing and ‘poor tylers’ now, ha ha.

      Go ABC (anybody but carolina)

      • heelhook says:

        @tarholehater, This is Rocky vs Apollo in Rock’s hometown with everyone behind him, for all intensive purposes. The Heels are a far better team with more speed and depth, but talent is about 20 percent of the game at this level of competition. If the best always won it would’ve been Buster Douglas trying to find his mouthpiece on the canvas fifteen years ago and not Mike Tyson. I’m almost too nervous to watch this game because this very well could be an upset. State has everything to win for and Carolina has everything to lose. Just from a mental aspect that is a big advantage for State, and a mental advantage is just as big, if not bigger than a physical one. I hope my Heels win but good luck Spart fans. Should be a classic

  8. No one can beat UNC now. They’re at their peak and they’re not looking down. But people who are betting on NC covering the spread will lose a lot of money.

    • @gambii, honestly I think UNC either covers the spread or loses outright. If it’s close, I’m giving the edge to the Spartans. But if Michigan State just has a cold shooting night and UNC is its usual dominant self, I can still foresee the possibility of a 10-15 point victory.

    • DukeMan says:


      LOL, lets all see if your still spouting that nonsense this time tomorrow!

      Go Spartans, send the tarholes home crying!

  9. its says ncaa championship…not ncaa champions…read the site better
    there is no jinx…stop making up stupid crap like the rest of the country

  10. spartans07 says:

    I sure hope my boys can win but when UNC is on fire, it is downright scary.
    Oklahoma got within 11 points in the 2nd half… then the heels scored about 10-12 points in about 48 seconds. It’s almost like UNC was a cat toying with a mouse…. able to pull away at will. Also, I doubt UNC will have an off free-throw showing night like they had against Villanova, where they would have easily won by 25 had they been shooting their average there.

    Not only will the state of Michigan be pulling for the spartans, but America will be too. MSU has a chance to beat UNC, but there is also the chance that UNC will revv up their high powered offense to the next level and totally blow out MSU. I hope I’m wrong…. but this is UNC’s game to lose.

  11. One heck of an analysis Jrod. Appreciate the work and effort you put into same. Hope you leave it and links up so that I can go back and further understand the analysis and related links. I caught the above issue before I got down to the comment section. Should have designated as Championship Final. Went back and checked on won/loss record which is correct as of Villanova win@ 33-4. If it would have read 34-4 I would have personally called BB offices at EL and given them the information. Do you give tutorials on the analysis used. Would like to fully understand the numbers. Thanks again for your efforts.

    • @bob, thanks for the kind words. No real tutorials here…just my painstaking best effort at trying to predict the games as accurately as possible. The tool I link to (Game Predictor) at the very top of the post is a really fun and insightful way to analyze games based on the stats you think are most important. From there, it’s all about trying to take a deeper look at the numbers and matchups to see which ones can actually tips the scales in one direction or another. I keep hearing all this talk about how Michigan State HAS to win the rebounding battle. Why? Only one of the four teams that beat UNC this season outrebounded them (FSU +1). What MSU has to do is make their best effort be effective on the glass — but not at the expense of being vulnerable on the break. And the Spartans have the personnel and gameplan to do that, which is one main reason why I think they can — and will — win.

  12. VOLS FAN, What you said,I wholeheartedly agree. Not a hater and obviously don’t know the kid, but must admit that PsychoT gets on my nerves. The majority of the country can’t be wrong on that one,can they?

  13. Give me a break. The Tarheels are a better team HANDS DOWN. Home advantage is a big thing……..but the Tarheels will win! Plain and simple.

    • DukeMan says:


      The tarholes will choke up in the last 3-4 minutes and Spartans will bring the trophy home!

      Go Spartans!

  14. 95catamount says:

    These same two teams met on the same court (MSU backyard) earlier this season. The result was a 35 point win for UNC. Did MSU have injuries, pick up their game or are they the same team that met UNC then?

    • @95catamount, as mentioned above, Goran Suton did not play for Michigan State and they were only days removed from a grueling stretch of three games in four days in the Old Spice Classic. Plus, they simply were not playing anywhere near the level they are now.

      I really think that anyone reading too much into the result from earlier this year is making a mistake.

      UNC very well may win tonight, but I do not think you can use the December game as a predictor. As the UNC players and coaches have said, the MSU team they will see tonight will be MUCH different than the team they played earlier — and that’s a very smart mindset for them to have. If Carolina comes in overconfident (which I do not think they will), it will make Michigan State’s upset bid that much more possible.

  15. Jrod, thanks allot for this for this clear and easy to read insight on the game.
    i’ve been out of the states until the final four so I haven’t really been on top of the stats.
    both teams are amazing and their drive to win is astounding.
    while people say that MSU is the underdog, i think that people forget how much the UNC team has done to get to his position.
    after that absolutely horrible loss to kansas last year, UNC put in so much effort into getting better!! they push themselves to the limit every game and their ability to shut down every team comes from such a single minded determination.
    i’Il expect Tyler Hansbrough to be absolutely BEASTING this game as he will undoubtedly want to make his senior year end on a high. plus Ty lawson will no doubt make his free throw shooting improve drastically from saturday.
    I’m only 15 so my knowledge of basketball is limited but this game will one for the ages. both teams have amazing drive and dedication and either way i cant wait to watch this game with my dad!
    GO HEELS!!!!

    • DukeMan says:


      “I’m only 15 so my knowledge of basketball is limited ”

      and your a unc fan so that’s two strikes against you!

      • 95catamount says:


        Another intelligent and insightful comment form a ‘Dook’ fan. young1 simply said he is excited about watching the game with his dad and hopes for UNC’s success this evening. There is no need to make ugly and sophomoric comments to a teenager.

        Over the years I have met many Duke graduates and am proud to call many of them friends. It is a shame that many Duke fans (especially one’s who did not attend school there) act in a obnoxious and truly classless manor. I am a graduate of UNC and have a life long Tar Heel and college basketball fan. My knowledge of basketball is not limited (especially when it comes to the ACC). I have been following college basketball for almost 30 years now. I have met Dean Smith, Coach K and Roy Williams and all are class individuals and coaches. Duke had a brief run for a few of years in the late 90’s & early 2000’s but they are the second tier basketball school in the ACC and (in my humble opinion) always will be.

  16. Re: Home Crowd Factor

    I have heard on-scene reports that while the crowd noise was at times very loud and a plus for MSU it wasn’t as raucous as the top college atmospheres. The flat student sections behind the goal at Ford Field are nothing compared to the risers that surround 3/4 of the court at Cameron Indoor Stadium. Even if it was that loud these Tar Heels are 4-0 when playing in the “toughest home court in the NCAAs”.

    • @Seth, there is no question that the crowd at Ford Field will not be able to replicate the intimate craziness of the Breslin Center. But remember, during the Final Four you had groups of fans from each of the four teams. Now many of the UConn and ‘Nova fans have presumably sold their tickets, and probably to a majority of Spartan fans already in the area. It will be much louder for MSU tonight. It won’t be the deciding factor, but it certainly will help MSU mitigate the threat of a blowout and make things a little more difficult on the Heels. In the end though, it will come down to the Spartans’ guards’ ability to score and MSU’s ability to compete on the glass while playing strong transition D. If they do those things, the crowd is able to become a factor. If not, it won’t matter.

  17. Mary Ann says:

    I was a student at UNC when they won in 1982. What a fine victory celebration ti was. I hope tonight is a repeat performance.

    GO HEELS!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

  18. Geez…what idiot wrote this preview?

    UNC up 20 early…proving me right that the first game UNC-MSU played didn’t matter. This one is looking worse.

    Come on Spartans! Battle back and give us something to watch!

  19. don allen says:

    mmmmmm…!! Looks like most of the Heels fans were right and all the Spartan fans were wrong… That wasn’t a game… It was over the first 5 minutes… What a beating..!!

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