Posted by BrianBoru at 4/7/2009 2:30 AM EDT
The North Carolina Tarheels proved to be too talented for Michigan State, collecting their fifth NCAA Championship.
Right at the outset, the Tarheels jumped on the Spartans, led by outstanding point guard Ty Lawson. Lawson, once again, demonstrated why he is the best player in the nation. Running the offense and leading the defensive pressure, Lawson could be found all over the court. He finished with a game-high 21 points while also notching eight steals. Yeah, eight steals. Lawson tied the record for an NCAA tournament contest, displaying superhero quickness I've not seen in a long time.
Senior forward Tyler Hansbrough supported his point guard's effort, contributing 18 points and seven boards. Hansbrough is a good kid who works hard, and it was nice seeing him revel in victory during the waning moments of the game. He probably won't have a great NBA career. He's limited offensively - though he did showcase a few impressive turnaround jump shots - and will probably be a role player in the NBA. But he finished his illustrious college career with a bang.
The key to the game, as I saw it, was how well could Michigan State contain the explosive abilities of Ty Lawson. Clearly, they did not. Travis Walton, the Spartans designated defensive guru, was run ragged and silly in his futile effort to shadow Lawson.
Lawson is so important to his team because he not only runs the offense, but he allows his teammates the opportunity to settle into their best roles: Danny Green can freely roam the court, rebounding and doing the thankless work which suits him so well. Wayne Ellington, gifted with a natural stroke from long range, benefits from defenders cheating towards Lawson, worrying about his unrivaled penetration ability. Perhaps most important - Bobby Frasor, a step slower than a snail, can play his more natural position - backup shooting guard. And so on and so on...
The Spartans ran a host of defenders at Lawson, and when that didn't work you could almost see Head Coach Tom Izzo cracking a smile as if to say he had nothing left to throw at the kid. That was the nearest I've ever seen Izzo wave the white flag.
You have to feel good for a guy like Williams who, while coaching at Kansas, never could quite get over the hump and win that elusive title. Now, in just his sixth season at North Carolina, he's matched the legendary Dean Smith with two titles on his resume.
I will always respect Roy Williams for how classy he was last season following a deflating defeat to a familiar friend, a place he called home for a long time - Kansas. After losing to the Jayhawks in the Final Four, Williams not only attended the Championship game between Kansas and Memphis, but he arrived at the game festooned in Kansas Jayhawks garb. Now, it may have rankled a few Tarheels fans, but the man was simply being supportive of a school where he coached for 15 years. Williams was there to honor the fond memories shared with his players. They were his kids.
Williams is classy. And now he is a champion once more.
Good for him.