DETROIT (AP) – 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 NCAA championship game. Since 1999, 10 Big Ten teams have made it to the Final Four, including two teams in 1999, 2000 and 2005.

The Spartans play top-seeded North Carolina on Monday night.

“There’s a saying in Latin – res ipsa loquitur – ‘the thing speaks for itself,”‘ commissioner Jim Delany said Sunday. “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.”

Bad calls

North Carolina’s current players have found themselves at a disadvantage in pickup games against Tar Heels from the 2005 national championship team.

The reason? Owning a national championship ring has its privileges.

“They call these crazy calls, fouls and stuff against us,” junior Wayne Ellington said. “We can’t say anything, because every time we say something to them, they say, ‘You can’t talk until you get a banner up there.”‘

Ellington said two of the worst offenders have been Sean May, the most outstanding player of the Final Four that year and a player with the NBA’s Charlotte Bobcats, and Melvin Scott, a reserve on the ’05 team.

“Those guys come back and they talk about the memories they have and how much fun they had and how exciting it is,” Ellington said. “We want to have that feeling. We want to be a part of something like that.”

Chalmers remembers

When this year’s NCAA tournament began, someone placed a thick promotional booklet on Mario Chalmers’ seat inside the Miami Heat locker room.

Chalmers was on the cover. The shot that’ll live forever.

It’s been a year since Chalmers hit what was dubbed “Mario’s Miracle” – the going-to-his-left, game-tying 3-pointer with 2.1 seconds left that sent Kansas and Memphis into overtime, with the Jayhawks going on to win the NCAA title. It’ll surely be on his mind Monday night when Michigan State and North Carolina play for this year’s championship.

“It seems like a lot longer ago than a year already,” said Chalmers, who has started every game at point guard this season for the playoff-bound Heat. “The NBA season is so long, you don’t always have time to think about the past. But it’s still a great feeling, knowing you’ll be remembered for that, something I did, something that’ll go down in history for my school and my family.”

After Derrick Rose made the second of two free throws for Memphis with 10 seconds left, giving the Tigers a 63-60 lead, Kansas needed a 3-pointer for overtime. Chalmers made it known he wanted the ball.

“I was kind of feeling it,” he said.

Sherron Collins believed him. Collins nearly lost control of the ball and wound up stumbling to the floor, but not before somehow passing to Chalmers, who was coming around the 3-point arc from the right side of the court.

Chalmers’ momentum was still carrying him left when he shot with 3.9 seconds remaining.

“I knew,” Chalmers said.

Exactly 1.8 seconds later, so did everyone else. The shot swished through, the game went into OT, and Kansas cut down the nets.

“I made a name for myself doing something I’m proud of,” Chalmers said.



ANOTHER FEAT: Tyler Hansbrough didn’t set any new records in Saturday night’s 83-69 win against Villanova in the Final Four, but he did move past a notable name on the list of NCAA’s best scorers: Larry Bird.

Hansbrough’s 18 points gave him 2,854 points, moving him past 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.”

There isn’t much left statistically for the senior to accomplish heading into Monday’s national championship game against Michigan State. Earlier this year, he became the career scoring leader in the Atlantic Coast Conference, the school’s career rebounding leader and the NCAA’s all-time leader in made free throws.

As for NCAA tournament scoring, Hansbrough’s 307 points rank sixth behind Michigan’s Glen Rice (308), Cincinnati’s Oscar Robertson (324) and Kansas’ Danny Manning (328).



Associated Press National Writer Nancy Armour and AP Sports Writers Aaron Beard, Larry Lage in Detroit and Tim Reynolds in Miami contributed to this story.

AP-ES-04-05-09 1800EDT


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