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Published: Monday, 4/6/2009

Perfect ending in sight

BY DONALD EMMONS
BLADE SPORTS WRITER

DETROIT - Michigan State and North Carolina share something in common heading into tonight's national championship game at Ford Field.

Both believe they are teams of destiny.

The Spartans, who have defeated two No. 1 seeds to reach the title game, have pulled together to become a symbol of Detroit and Michigan pride and perseverance during tough economic times brought on, in part, by a near-collapsed U.S. automotive industry.

The Tar Heels, a team that started out the season as a preseason pick to win it all, are a veteran group that has been on a mission to win the national championship since losing in a national semifinal last season.

"I don't know if you want to call this a cause," said Michigan State coach Tom Izzo. "The state and this city are very important to me, but the cause right now is for the Michigan State players to win a championship and, hopefully, the repercussions from that will help a lot of people.

"It's a feel-good [story] for a lot of people."

North Carolina coach Roy Williams has made it a priority to remind his team the Tar Heels

(33-4) are playing against the Spartans (31-6) and not the city of Detroit or the state of Michigan.

It is Williams' team taking on Izzo's team.

"If we're playing against the city of Detroit and the state of Michigan, they outnumber us," Williams said. "We don't have as good a chance as that one.

"We're playing Michigan State. I do realize they have a cause. Well, we also have a cause. We want to win a national championship, period, the end. And if you tell me that if Michigan State wins, it's going to satisfy the nation's economy, then I'd say, ... let's stay poor for a little while longer."

The matchup is the second meeting between the two at Ford Field this season. The Tar Heels destroyed the Spartans 98-63 during an ACC/Big Ten showdown on Dec. 3. Much has happened since then.

Both teams claim that first meeting doesn't have any bearing on tonight's contest. However, Michigan State did play that game at less than full strength. Senior post Goran Suton (9.9 points per game and 8.1 rebounds) did not play in the game.

A major part of Suton's work will be to defend Hansbrough, last year's player of the year and the ACC's all-time scorer.

"I've seen Tyler Hansbrough go off on a lot of defenders whether Goran has been there or not," Izzo said. "I will say this, in the last four or five games we've faced some pretty good centers, pretty good post people, and G [Suton] has done an incredible job of figuring out how to guard them."

Contact Donald Emmons at:

demmons@theblade.com

or 419-724-6302.



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