College basketball's men's national champion will be determined on Monday night at Ford Field in Detroit, Michigan. Underdog Michigan State will challenge favored North Carolina.
Michigan State advanced to its second national championship game under Coach Tom Izzo by beating Connecticut, 82 to 73 on Saturday night.
But Monday's title game will be a repeat of a game played earlier this season here at Ford Field. That was a lopsided loss, with North Carolina pounding Michigan State, 98 to 63 in December for a 35-point victory.
Michigan State is hoping that Monday's game will be different. Center Goran Suton, who missed that game, is back. And perhaps equally important, the team is carrying the dreams of Detroit and the rest of Michigan -- an area ravaged by the economic downturn and the collapse of the U.S. auto industry.
Guard Travis Walton says that is something his team has talked about.
"Bringing hope to the city for the whole weekend," Walton said. "People forgetting about their problems, forgetting about what they are going through. Just focusing on us for the moment we were on that court and we won that court and we won that game. You know, people did not think about what they were going through outside of this. They were just happy that we won and they could continue to cheer for us on Monday."
It is no surprise to see North Carolina playing on Championship Monday. They were the first consensus number-one selection in the preseason ESPN/USA Today coaches' poll and they decisively defeated Villanova, 83 to 69 on Saturday, in the semifinals.
North Carolina is fast and has one of the most talented starting fives in the country. But they know this is not the same Michigan State team they embarrassed in December. In its past three games, Michigan State has defeated defending national champion Kansas and number-one regional seeds Louisville and Connecticut.
North Carolina point guard Ty Lawson say he has a lot of respect for Michigan State.
"They are a Big-10 team, so they are probably really tough inside," Lawson said. "Real physical. [They] probably might slow it down a little bit. So we are expecting a tough game from them, a real battle on the boards."
North Carolina will be going for its second NCAA, or National Collegiate Athletic Association, title in five years, while Michigan State will be playing in the title game for the first time since 2000, when they won their second college basketball crown.