North Carolina Beats Michigan State 89-72
RENEE MONTAGNE, host:
Well, North Carolina saved the best for last. With a virtuoso performance last night in Detroit, the Tar Heels won their fifth men's college basketball championship. They cruised to a surprisingly easy 89-72 victory over Michigan State. With this victory, North Carolina's coach, Roy Williams, becomes the 11th coach to win at least two NCAA basketball championships.
Commentator John Feinstein joins us now. A lot of news there, John.
Mr. JOHN FEINSTEIN (Author, "Last Shot: A Final Four Mystery"): Yeah, there was a lot going on last night, if you were a North Carolina fan, Renee. If you were a neutral fan or a Michigan State fan, it was a long night, since North Carolina jumped in front 31-11 the first ten minutes. And the game was really over at that point. They just dominated the way - to be honest, they dominated from the very beginning of this tournament.
They only had one game, Renee, out of six where they were in any trouble at all, and that was in the second round against LSU when they didn't pull away until the last five minutes. Every one else, they just blew out at the start just like last night.
MONTAGNE: Now, in recent years most great teams have been built around young players, really good young players, who leave early for the NBA. Not so with this team.
Mr. FEINSTEIN: No, absolutely not. They were built around two seniors - Tyler Hansborough and Danny Green - and two juniors - Ty Lawson and Wayne Ellington. And all four of them made the decision last year to not go to the NBA early, which they all could've done. And they came back after losing in the Final Four to Kansas because they wanted to win a national championship.
A lot of people predicted greatness for them before the season began, but they had a couple of injuries and lost a few games in the middle of the year. And I think people almost forgot, going into the tournament, just how good they were. They certainly showed it during this tournament.
MONTAGNE: Now, with this being coach Roy Williams's second championship, where does that put him in the - what he might call the coaching pantheon?
Mr. FEINSTEIN: Well, he's already in the Hall of Fame, so people know he's pretty good. But I think it makes him, right now, among current coaches, the premier coach. He's won, as you said, the two national titles in the last five seasons, been to three Final Fours - seven overall, which puts him only five behind the great John Wooden for the all-time number of trips to the Final Four - and he's really become the dominant coach, even just coaching ten miles down the road from Mike Krzyzewski at Duke.
He's number one right now, not just for this season, but in the coaching game, at the moment.
MONTAGNE: John, let's spend a few moments with Michigan State. The Spartans didn't win the title but they certainly won a lot of hearts getting to this final.
Mr. FEINSTEIN: They really did. I think they brought some joy to the city of Detroit, to the state of Michigan. We all know what people have been through there, economically, the last year. And they brought hope to the city. They distracted people from what's been going on there, at least for a little while. And they really took on that mantle - they embraced it.
Coach Tom Izzo talked about we're a blue collar team, Detroit's the blue collar city, and we're proud to be representing it. And it was a nice thing to see, even though, as you said, it didn't end up with a win at the end.
MONTAGNE: And how about Detroit itself, given all that has gone on there recently, and mostly, I would say, all of it bad, actually. You know, what did it make of being the Final Four host? How'd it do?
Mr. FEINSTEIN: I thought the people there did wonderfully. You know, it was almost as if they wanted to show visitors, hey, we're still here, we're still hanging in, we haven't given up. The only problem was that the NCAA, running the tournament, set the arena up in such a way with their 72,000 seats to try to squeeze every dollar they could out of the event, that I think they jumped the shark, Renee.
There were 72,000 seats, but most of them were bad. I think there were people sitting in Canada, and they really need to reconsider this set-up.
MONTAGNE: Well, just one last question. Obviously, not a thrilling final, but overall, how would you rate this tournament for excitement?
Mr. FEINSTEIN: Very low. There were very few great games. There was one truly great game: Pittsburgh/Villanova in the region final last week in the East. But of the last 15 games played in the tournament, Renee, which are supposed to be the best, nine of them were decided by double digits, including last night.
So, not a great tournament but a great year for North Carolina.
MONTAGNE: John, pleasure talking to, as always.
Mr. FEINSTEIN: Thank you, Renee.
MONTAGNE: The comments of John Feinstein. He's the author of "Last Shot: A Final Four Mystery."
NPR transcripts are created on a rush deadline by Verb8tm, Inc., an NPR contractor, and produced using a proprietary transcription process developed with NPR. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Accuracy and availability may vary. The authoritative record of NPR’s programming is the audio record.