Tonight’s NCAA Men’s Basketball Championship game kicks off a week of solid sports events, both inside and outside Chicago. If you are even a basketball neophyte, the question everyone is asking is who do you like in tonight’s game? Remember, it’s either the Michigan State Spartans or the North Carolina Tar Heels. I’ll tell you who I like and I think it will be a surprise to some:
I like Michigan State by 6 points. The latest Las Vegas lines have North Carolina favored by 7 1/2 points against Michigan State, with an over/under of 153 points. See for yourself, the Las Vegas Sun has the betting line on any kind of bet you can imagine for tonight’s game.
So your next question may be: Why do you like Michigan State so much? Who would pick them to beat the heavily favored North Carolina Tar Heels? Below are my reasons why:
1. Playing at Ford Field is essentially a home game for Michigan State. Not essentially, it IS a home game for the Spartans. Home court advantage is typically worth a few extra points in hype and comfort to start any game. In a tournament game, it’s worth even more. In a championship game? It’s worth it’s weight in gold. Championship games are played at neutral sites to avoid the appearance of giving the home team a distinct advantage. In this case, Michigan State is playing their biggest game of the season in front of what appears to be a very strong home court advantage. Don’t think for a moment that Spartans coach Tom Izzo isn’t pulling out all the stops in the motivation department tonight.
2. The rematch factor — North Carolina and Michigan State played each other on this very same court in the very same venue earlier this season (December 3rd, 2008). The game was a blowout – the Tar Heels won by 35 points. My rabid North Carolina basketball fans will say this shows a clear and distinct advantage for the Tar Heels. Not so. It’s very difficult to beat a team twice in a season, especially if the teams are close to each other in terms of talent/skill. In December, Michigan State was playing their 4th game of the week and it showed. They were also missing F Goran Suton, who has been playing his best basketball at the right time. He’ll be needed to joust with Tar Heels F Tyler Hansborough. North Carolina played it’s best ball in December. Michigan State is peaking exactly at the right time.
3. Championships come down to defense. Ask University of Connecticut. Ask any team that has played Michigan State. Their defense is on fire right now. Michigan State made it their mission to shut down UConn’s front court on Saturday, which they did quite effectively. UConn helped by missing 12 of 33 free throws, something I don’t expect the Tar Heels to do if they were in the same position. Michigan State knows how to play an open style of offense. They did it to beat UConn. They also know how to play lock down defense as well as to play against lockdown defense, as they did it all season in the Big 10 in conference play. The team that plays as though it’s on a mission on defense will win the game. I believe that will be Michigan State.
There you go. The prediction? Michigan State 83, North Carolina 77 (yes, that would mean I am taking the over on the total points as well.)