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Off the cuff: I thought that if Carolina could hit its free throws and shoot 50 percent from the field that they'd beat Villanova. They didn't but they did. The Tar Heels shot less than 40 percent and only hit 22 of 37 free throws. But I also said that it would take good defense by Carolina, and despite getting into foul trouble, the Heels did play good defense once again. So, I'll go out on a limb and say that if the Tar Heels play defense and at least don't fall apart offensively, from the field and the line, they will beat Michigan State.

In this feel-good, politically correct environment, the media loves to play up the angle that this tournament run by Michigan State means so much to the people of Michigan, who are so devastated by the economy. The auto industry isn't going to do any better if the Spartans win and people aren't going to feel any better about not having a job so, media types, just can that angle. Our country, or at least the media, likes the underdog anyway and Michigan State will be the underdog.

Carolina is a better team than Michigan State, and I'm not even taking into consideration the 35-point victory over the Spartans in December. That was a long time ago and players are healthy now that weren't then, plus this is for the national championship. Yet, that will be another angle you'll read and hear about ad nausem until the game ends. While UNC is a better team, that does not mean the Heels will win. Coach Tom Izzo is equal to Coach Roy Williams and Michigan State is as deep or deeper than the Tar Heels. Foul trouble and free throw shooting could haunt the Heels. Still, the better team usually wins and, man-for-man, Carolina is better.

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NCAA Tourney: Heels 83, Wildcats 69
UNC to play for national championship

It wasn't pretty as North Carolina missed 15 free throws and shot less than 40 percent from the field in a game marred by a total of 47 fouls called (and perhaps 47 others not called). But the Tar Heels hit 11 of 22 three-pointers to run away from Villanova 83-69 and advance to the finals of the NCAA tournament. (4/4)

"It was an ugly second half," UNC coach Roy Williams said. "Nobody could hit a shot. I think both teams got caught up in the excitement of the Final Four and (as a result) I think we were both spent... But we made plays and we're still playing."

The Tar Heels now play Michigan State Monday night at Ford Field in Detroit. Some estimate that as many as 60,000 people will be pulling for the Spartans against Carolina in the finals.

"I'm expecting something like 80 percent of the crowd to be for Michigan State," UNC's Ty Lawson said. "But we play well on the road."

Lawson led the Tar Heels in scoring against Villanova with 22 but he also missed seven free throw shots and turned the ball over five times. In the previous three NCAA tournament games, he had a combined two turnovers.

It took five three-pointers by Wayne Ellington and four by Danny Green to hold off the Wildcats who cut a 17-point UNC lead down to five early in the second half. With the score 50-45, Green hit a three from the top of the key to up the lead 53-45 with 17:21 to play.

Green hit another three two minutes later to up the margin to 13 at 58-45. It never got closer than 10 again and the lead got up to 18 at 75-57 when Ellington banged in a three from the left corner with 4:43 to all but wrap it up.

Ahead just 10-8 at the first TV timeout, UNC went on a 9-0 run to get its first double-digit lead at 19-8 after Ellington hit Deon Thompson with a nice pass that ended with a layup.

During that first half, Carolina got up by as much as 17 points after Ellington sank a jumper and Lawson hit both ends of a one-and-one to give the Heels a 40-23 lead.

But the Tar Heels took a few ill-advised shots and kept getting called for fouls and, as a result, the Wildcats outscored Carolina 17-9 over the last seven minutes of the half and pulled to within nine at 49-40 at the half.

Neither team seemed to have much gas left in the tank as Villanova didn't shoot well enough to catch up and UNC didn't shoot well enough to run away with it.

Villanova finished shooting less than 33 percent from the field while the Tar Heels shot just 39.7 percent. Joining Lawson in double figures for the Tar Heels were Ellington (20), Tyler Hansbrough (18) and Green (12).

While Hansbrough led the Heels in rebounding with 11, UNC guard Bobby Frasor got seven rebounds, including five offensive rebounds, in just 18 minutes of play.

Carolina moves to 33-4 with one game remaining while Villanova ends its season at 30-8.


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