It wasn’t even close. Even in the second half when Carolina really wasn’t very good, it still wasn’t close. After scoring the most-ever points in a first half of the NCAA title game, it really didn’t matter.
This was what I thought would happen to Michigan State against Kansas, Louisville or Connecticut. Not that I thought MSU wasn’t a good team, I just didn’t consider them a true heavyweight. Instead they played beyond their normal level, one of those more than the sum of their parts teams, and escaped each of those power programs to get the chance to play Carolina. Yet none of it mattered in the end because the team that simply could not miss in earlier games was completely deficient on the offensive end, particularly in the first half.
When I talked to my brother about the game on Sunday he made a good point that Carolina just builds a big lead in the first half and the other team has to play catch-up the rest of the night which forces bad shots, more turnovers and in the end, a loss. That could not have been a more accurate explanation for what happened last night in Detroit. Michigan State looked scared and then downright careless (if not just bad).
It’s hard to tell how this UNC team will be judged. They were anointed before the season as the guarantee for the title. So does simply meeting those expectations garner any more respect? Probably not. But they did win every single tournament game by more than a dozen points and often by more than fifteen, including last night. I know other teams have done it before, I think Florida may have even done it a few years ago, but looking back, this Carolina team was completely dominant when it mattered most.
What I think we all underestimated with this team was how embarrassed they were with their loss in the Final Four last year to Kansas in San Antonio. Remember that? It was 40-12 at one point in the first half? That’s why Hansbrough, Lawson and Ellington all came back. They were clearly motivated by a much bigger idea that until the tournament started, no one really mentioned very often. That force was more than enough to win four of their easiest games in the sweet sixteen, great eight, final four and title game.