Where: Ford Field, Detroit, MI
When: Monday, April 6th, 9:21 PM
Livestats: SCACC Hoops
Records: UNC 33-4; Michigan St 31-6
NCAA Results: UNC def. Radford, LSU, Gonzaga, Oklahoma, Villanova; MSU def. Robert Morris, USC, Kansas, Louisville, UConn
One. win. away.
First of all, the game on December 3rd means nothing now. As you may have heard more than 34 times in the past 36 hours, MSU was without Goran Suton and played the game two days removed from a weekend tourney in Orlando during which they lost to Maryland. Since then MSU has raised the level of their game and work their way up to a #2 seed. So any thoughts that this game will be similar to the one four months ago are not even on the radar.
While the media is hot and heavy to exploit the feel good stories of a MSU of team of destiny national title possibility variety, allow me to focus on a similar vein for the Heels. Heading into this season, UNC was the prohibitive favorite and while the injury to Marcus Ginyard made them less dominant, particularly on defense, this team was the one to beat. Even beyond that, this game is an opportunity four years in the making. It was four years ago the foundation of the current team was laid in Tyler Hansbrough, Danny Green, Bobby Frasor and Marcus Ginyard. The next season along came Ty Lawson, Wayne Ellington and Deon Thompson. Brandan Wright and Alex Stepheson were also a part of that group but have since moved on. Reyshawn Terry, Wes Miller and Quentin Thomas also had their hand in building this team before graduation. Over the past four years the core of this team has gelled through the crushing loss in East Rutherford, followed by a school record 36 wins and the devastating defeat to Kansas last season. This core group that flirted with going to the NBA before each deciding for their own reasons they needed to come back to Chapel Hill. And while this group did not make winning a national title the primary reason they returned, the moment that press release went hot in June, winning a national title became their goal for the season ahead. All of their hopes and dreams both individually and as a team became tied to their ability to reached the last Monday of the season.
As people talk about destiny, it is easy to forget that this is a team of destiny. There is the destiny of a player like Tyler Hansbrough who, out of a love for college, stayed four years, scored over 2800 points and now has a chance to walk away the ultimate winner. The destiny of Danny Green who watched from afar has his father went to prison and managed to go from a player we thought might be decent to that guy who drops the dagger three pointer or blocks a key shot at a moment's notice. There is the destiny of Ty Lawson who through injury and clouds of doubts concerning his toughness can, with one final push, silence the critics forever. Or Wayne Ellington who missed the three that could have voided the Georgetown debacle and now stands ready to offer up one of the great wing performances by a Tar Heel player in a Final Four since Donald Williams. There is the destiny of Bobby Frasor and his lost two seasons but in the end could walk away a champion or Deon Thompson who has been questioned and doubted but continues to bring it every night.
I could go on down the list but the point is while MSU has been embraced as the "team of destiny" for getting this far, the core of this Tar Heel team has had greatness expected of them their entire careers. This core group of Tar Heels also has had a destiny to cut down the nets and watch themselves celebrate at the end of "One Shining Moment" since the moment they stepped on campus. In this age of early entrants to the NBA Draft, to see a starting lineup of two seniors and three juniors going once more into the breach to grasp the glory found there is the stuff of legends and certainly defined as something to do with destiny.
After the win over Villanova, Woody Durham succintly said that this team now has everything they wanted, now it is on them to go out and take care of business on Monday night. So forget the match-ups, the stats or anything else you think you might be able to figure out concerning how this game might go. The Heels came to Detroit to fulfill a destiny of being national champions by redeeming Georgetown and Kansas with wins over Villanova and Michigan St.
Forty minutes to the title. Go get 'em Tar Heels!
UNC 82 MSU 71