DETROIT — North Carolina coach Roy Williams appreciates that the Spartans are providing a stimulus of sorts to the psyche of their suffering state by advancing to tonight's NCAA Tournament finale.
"I do realize they have a cause," he said Sunday. "Well, we also have a cause. We want to win a national championship. Period. The end."
But what about the ray of hope the Spartans insist they are trying to give to people here and throughout Michigan, people who came out in legions on Saturday to Ford Field and will again today?
"If you would tell me that if Michigan State wins, it's gonna satisfy the nation's economy, then I'd say, 'Hell, let's stay poor for a little while longer,' " Williams deadpanned. "I don't think that's gonna happen. So if all the workers of America come down and start guarding my butt on the bench, then I'll start being concerned about it."
WHAT MIGHT HAVE BEEN: When senior C Goran Suton was choosing a college, he was down to Michigan State, Arizona State and LSU. The Spartans were looking at two big men: Suton and Al Horford, who signed with Florida and helped the Gators to back-to-back titles.
"It was interesting," Michigan State coach Tom Izzo said. "And yet we liked Goran, we really did. Arizona State had done a good job of recruiting him. He wasn't as highly recruited. Neither was Al. Billy (Donovan) did a great job of recruiting Al. Neither one of them was on everybody's 'Who's Who' list. G needed to learn to love the game. I think his best basketball is still ahead of him. I really do."
ROAD WARRIORS: The Tar Heels are 19-3 away from Chapel Hill, those losses coming at Wake Forest and at Maryland and to Florida State in Atlanta. They were by a total of nine points. So they're not concerned about the stadium feeling like a road game tonight.
"It's something that we're well prepared for," G Wayne Ellington said. "We played well on the road all year long. It won't be anything new to us."
Of course, UConn had been exceptional on the road this season and lost here to the Spartans.
BIGGER THAN ITS REP: Ragging on the Big Ten has become such a popular pastime that "much-maligned" might as well be a formal part of its name.
Yet here the rough-and-tumble conference is, playing for the national title again.
Michigan State is the fifth Big Ten team since 2000 to advance to the championship game. Since 1999, 10 Big Ten teams have made it to the Final Four, including two in 1999, 2000 and 2005.
"There's a saying in Latin: res ipsa loquitur — 'The thing speaks for itself,' " commissioner Jim Delany said. "We haven't won championships as much as we'd like, but we've played for it. And I don't think you have to defend playing for the national championship, whether it's in the BCS or whether it's in the NCAA Tournament.
"You're at a stage where your kids and coaches and fans have an opportunity to win, and that's all you can ask for."
ANOTHER FEAT: Tyler Hansbrough didn't set any records in Saturday's 83-69 win over Villanova, but he did move past a notable name on the list of the NCAA's top scorers: Larry Bird.
Hansbrough's 18 points gave him 2,854, passing the former Indiana State star and NBA Hall of Famer for 12th all time.
"Larry Bird is probably one of my favorite players ever," Hansbrough said. "To be honest with you, I'm kind of thrilled I passed him because of what he's done, not just for college basketball, but for all of basketball."
RUN ON 1'S: Michigan State has beaten two No. 1 seeds (Louisville and UConn) and could become the first to beat three straight No. 1s. Only Arizona in 1997 has beaten three top seeds. The first of those No. 1s to fall was Kansas in the Sweet 16. The Kansas coach? Roy Williams.
Information from the Associated Press was used in this report.