Thursday, May 23, 2024

‘Better team’ won; MSU had great season

Revelers cheer for MSU after the NCAA championship game early Tuesday morning in Cedar Village. MSU lost to North Carolina, but students who crowded in Cedar Village ran through the streets cheering for the Spartans.

Detroit — As he trudged off the court for the final game of his sophomore season, Kalin Lucas looked ruefully into a colossal sea of green.

His head bowed and shoulders slumped, the guard looked like he had done much more than lose a basketball game — he looked like he had just let down the world.

For Lucas, winning Monday’s national championship game against North Carolina was about much more than bringing a banner to the school stitched across his green jersey. It was about bringing hope to a city and joy to a state that’s been wrought by the economy like a natural disaster.

Although he might not see it now, Lucas has done exactly that.

There’s absolutely no shame in MSU’s 89-72 loss to North Carolina. As ugly, lopsided and painful as it was at times, the Spartans should reflect back at this game, this tournament, and this season with nothing but feelings of fulfillment.

“One thing you really realize is there (were) two teams left, and no matter how you play, one team had to win and one team had to lose,” senior guard Travis Walton said after the game. “Even though we didn’t play our best, it’s a blessing we got here first off.

“Nobody thought we’d be in this position when you talk about playing for a national championship.”

In order to get to this point, the Spartans knocked off the defending national champs and a pair of No. 1-seed Big East squads that were decisive favorites before tipoff.

But it was clear early on that North Carolina was a different kind of beast.

The Tar Heels were not only the best team in the country; they were one of the best teams in college basketball history. Even if the Spartans played their best game of the season, chances were they weren’t leaving Ford Field with a championship trophy — not against these Tar Heels.

“The better team won,” MSU head coach Tom Izzo said after the game. “That’s a pretty easy statement to make.”

Although MSU adopted the motto “Team of Destiny” during its run to the Final Four, that title has rightfully belonged to North Carolina this season. Since April 25, 2008, when superstar Tyler Hansbrough announced he would forego the NBA and return for this season, this has been North Carolina’s trophy to lose.

And on Monday, the Tar Heels made sure that wasn’t going to happen.

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