On Saturday, we got a look at just how good Michigan State might have been all year long if Raymar Morgan had stayed healthy. The forward nailed 18 points and grabbed nine rebounds in leading his team to an 82-73 upset of UConn. This was a battle between two teams renowned for their board work, and it ended basically even (41-40 UConn) on the glass. MSU was a little better from three-point land, while the Huskies did more at the line. In a tightly fought game, the Spartans forced five more turnovers than their opponents did (16-11). Kalin Lucas ran the show and led all scorers with 21 points.
Turnovers were a factor again on Monday night, but this time not in a way that worked for the Big Ten team. North Carolina forced 21 miscues. Perhaps more amazingly, they only committed 7, in spite of the high-octane pace. More than any other, this told the story. Michigan State outrebounded the Tar Heels and were at least in the ballpark when it came to shooting from the floor and behind the arc. But that sort of turnover differential simply can't be overcome against anyone.
The victory was the last in a devastating tournament run for Carolina. They won all their games by double-digits and covered the spread all six times, even though Vegas tends to jack the numbers pretty high for popular teams like this. Ty Lawson scored 43 points and dished out 15 assists in the two games combined (an 83-69 win over Villanova on Saturday being the other). Tyler Hansborough combined for 36 points and 18 rebounds. Wayne Ellington was good for 39 points. With a Big Three like that leading the way both Saturday and Monday, UNC was a worthy champion. They got some breaks along the way in not having to face any #1 seeds. But they did have to beat a chalk bracket to win their regional (#4 Gonzaga and #2 Oklahoma) and playing a two-seed in MSU on their home floor isn't exactly a stroke of good luck. But nothing slowed them down.
Another season is in the books. Here at Big Ten Country, we'll still be open for business up through the NFL draft. In the coming 2 1/2 weeks, we'll wind down with a look back at each school's season in both football & basketball and see how the past year treated them. And there will be some draft previews mixed in, as the fate of the Big Ten's best is looked at.
So congrats to the Heels and also congratulations to Michigan State, and we'll see you back here the next couple weeks as we get ready for summer vacation.