Michigan State, North Carolina advance to Monday’s final

One of the more compelling storylines leading up to Saturday’s games was what kind of home court advantage Michigan State would enjoy playing just 92 miles from its campus in East Lansing. It turns out they would have a distinct advantage, and as Villanova fans try to sell off their seats this evening, it should be even bigger on Monday night.

Despite Clark Kellogg’s marveling at the sight lines in the dome, I think all March Madness games should be played in arenas. Domes are just too big for basketball, and with the advent of high definition television, there is little reason to go to a Final Four just to sit in the nosebleed seats. Who cares if you were “there”? Wouldn’t you rather watch the game?

Anyway, Tom Izzo came up with a great game plan and his Spartans executed it to perfection, beating UConn, 82-73. First, they had to harass A.J. Price. Anytime Price came off the screen, the help was there, forcing the guard to be a passer, which is not his forte. He went 5 of 20 on the night with only one assist. Next, they collapsed into the lane and dared the other Huskies to shoot the ball from the perimeter. UConn’s main advantage was on the front line, and the Spartans negated that by essentially camping four defenders in the lane. Anytime Hasheem Thabeet, Jeff Adrien or Stanley Robinson caught the ball, there were several hands trying to swipe it away. Lastly, Izzo knew his Spartans would have to get on the glass. UConn was clearly unprepared for the type of tenacity that Michigan State brings to rebounding, and it showed in the box score. Sure, Michigan State only had one more offensive board than UConn, but given the size of the Husky front line, the Spartans had no business getting that many.

In the late game, North Carolina simply out-shot and out-defended Villanova en route to an 83-69 victory. The Tar Heels shot 11 of 22 (50%) from long range while the Wildcats shot a pathetic 5 of 27 (19%). Still, Villanova whittled the lead down to five with 18:15 to go in the second half, but the Tar Heels went on a 9-0 run over the next three and a half minutes to push the lead back out to 14. It wasn’t a pretty game, but North Carolina was in control the entire time.

Michigan State and North Carolina met earlier this season at Ford Field and the Tar Heels won by 35 points. This is a different Spartan team, but it will be interesting to see how each squad uses the earlier game for motivation. Does Michigan State think they can beat UNC after getting trounced? (Yes.) Will the Tar Heels get complacent because they already blew the Spartans out once this season? (Doubtful, but you never know.) It should be a partisan crowd and a compelling game.

Check back tomorrow for a complete preview of Monday’s final.

Follow the Scores Report editors on Twitter @clevelandteams and @bullzeyedotcom.

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