Final Four Notebook
The NCAA Tournament notebook …
DETROIT ó Magic vs. Michael for the title again?
It was suggested Monday that if the national championship game were tied after overtime, Magic Johnson and Michael Jordan should decide the outcome with a game of 1-on-1.
Both Hall of Famers ó Jordan was elected Monday ó won national championships for their teams and were in the stands cheering on their schools. Jordan’s jumper from the left wing lifted North Carolina past Georgetown for the 1982 title. Johnson led Michigan State over Larry Bird and Indiana State three decades ago.
Jordan got the better of Johnson in the NBA, leading the Bulls to the first of their six titles with a five-game victory in the 1991 finals.
Talk of a rematch brought out the trash talk in the notoriously competitive Jordan.
“You really think he can beat me?” Jordan said. “He couldn’t beat me in the finals at all.”
NEXT GENERATION: Jordan took a moment to greet Ty Lawson after the North Carolina junior won the Bob Cousy Award as the nation’s top point guard.
“You ready?” Jordan asked Lawson, putting his hand on his shoulder.
Jordan didn’t speak to the team before the game, noting that he didn’t do so before the Tar Heels beat Illinois for the 2005 title.
But if he were?
“These are the games that are a lot of fun because the expectations are a lot higher,” Jordan said. “The stakes are a lot higher. But that’s what you live for. That’s what’s fun about it. I’d tell the guys just go out and be who you are and have fun.”
OBAMA’S BRACKET:Nice pick, Mr. President!
North Carolina delivered the big win President Barack Obama predicted at the outset, beating Michigan State 89-72 Monday night for the NCAA championship.
Obama’s bracket looked sharp after the victory ó he finished in the top 20 percent of the 5 million-plus people who entered ESPN.com’s pool.
The president had dropped into the bottom half earlier in the tournament when the first three teams he forecast to reach the Final Four ó Louisville, Pittsburgh and Memphis ó lost in earlier rounds.
CHAMPIONSHIP PARALLELS?: North Carolina’s path to the national championship game has a familiar feel, especially when compared to the Tar Heels’ past two title runs.
All three teams went into the final with almost identical records to face opponents from the Big Ten conference. Heading into Monday’s game against Michigan State, the Tar Heels had the same 33-4 record as the 1993 team that beat Michigan’s “Fab Five.” The 2005 team was 32-4 before beating Illinois.
In addition, all three teams lost at Wake Forest in January and headed into the NCAA tournament following a close loss in the Atlantic Coast Conference tournament despite winning the league’s regular-season crown. The 1993 team lost in the ACC final by two points, while the 2005 and 2009 squads both lost in the semifinals by three points.
And on Monday morning, Ty Lawson won the Bob Cousy Award as the nation’s top point guard just as Raymond Felton did the morning of the ’05 title game.
Lawson did manage to avoid one unwanted similarity.
Coach Roy Williams said Felton nearly dropped the award when it was presented to him and threw his back out trying to hold on to it. He said Felton needed about two hours of massage from a therapist before the game.
No such drama with Lawson, who held his hands under the award and rested it against his chest for a photo.
“I have coached Tywon to have his feet spread shoulder-width apart with the weight distributed on the balls of his feet,” Williams said. “When he’s handed the award, it’ll show you part of leadership is taking coaching.”
MISSION ACCOMPLISHED: The horn had barely sounded when Danny Green ran onto the court waving a towel, followed closely by Tyler Hansbrough, Lawson, Wayne Ellington and the rest of their North Carolina teammates. They ran to midcourt and mobbed each other while jumping around on the Final Four logo.
This is the moment they came back to school for, the chance to storm the court with confetti and streamers drifting down from the roof of cavernous Ford Field.
Sttatistics didn’t matter. Not to a group that had carried the Tar Heels to a regional championship game in 2007 and a Final Four last season only to fall short each time in incredibly frustrating fashion.
UGLY FINISH: Michigan State’s feel-good story ended with a thud.
The Spartans needed to play another sensational game just to have a chance against North Carolina on Monday night and they simply were awful. The Tar Heels, of course, had a lot to do with that.
The Spartans provided their depressed state with a temporary diversion from its economic woes by beating top-seeded teams Connecticut and Louisville to reach the title game.
“I think if we played as well as we did the last couple games, it would’ve been a game,” coach Tom Izzo said. “I felt bad for the fans, but don’t feel bad for our team. We had a heck of a year.”