Super fans Jordan, Magic expected at title game

DETROIT (AP) – 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 – Jordan was elected Monday – won national championships for their teams and are expected to be 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.”

Emotional boost

Michigan State’s run in the NCAA tournament has provided a welcome emotional boost to the economically struggling state, Gov. Jennifer Granholm said Monday.

“Not to put more pressure on them of course, but they really have become a symbol for our state,” said Granholm, who wore a green Michigan State sweat shirt under her dark business jacket Monday at the state Capitol in Lansing. “You know, a symbol of what can happen when you work really hard. As (coach) Tom Izzo says he’s got a blue-collar team, and all they do is work, work, work. It’s a great statement about them, certainly. But it’s a great, uplifting moment for us.”

Granholm said the Final Four will have an economic benefit to Detroit but that the overall benefit to Michigan – which had the nation’s highest unemployment rate in February at 12 percent – is hard to quantify in dollars and cents.

“I think really, this is so much more for us about a psychological impact,” Granholm said. “I know that I speak for 10 million Michigan citizens in saying thank you to this team, thank you to coach Izzo, for really being Michigan’s team and Michigan’s ‘uplift’ during this very, very tough time.”

Next generation

Michael 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 said he wouldn’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.”

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.”

Safety first

Hundreds of police officers were to be posted around Michigan State’s campus in East Lansing, 90 miles east of Ford Field.

Thousands of Spartan fans were expected to watch the game in bars near campus and in the Breslin Center, Michigan State’s on-campus arena.

About 2,000 people gathered Saturday night and early Sunday morning near Cedar Village to celebrate after Michigan State defeated Connecticut 82-73. Sixty people were arrested, but police say the celebration was peaceful.

Proud papa

Gene Hansbrough has watched his son go from always-heralded to often-criticized after returning to North Carolina for his senior season. Now Tyler Hansbrough and the Tar Heels are playing for the national championship.

Hansbrough opted to put off the NBA because he enjoyed college life and wanted another shot at that title. As a returning national player of the year, his game was scrutinized, especially when some of his stats dipped slightly.

But there’s been no second-guessing the decision.

“Like Tyler said, he loves his teammates, and he loves his coaches,” said Gene Hansbrough, who watched Saturday’s win against Villanova from a front-row seat at Ford Field. “Life will never get better than being a basketball player at Chapel Hill, so why give up a year of it if you don’t have to?”


Michigan State coach Tom Izzo says he’s going to fulfill his promise of shaving his head.

Izzo told students he would do it if the team won its first Big Ten conference championship since 2001 and acknowledged – again – his plans for a buzz cut.

“I’m probably dumb enough to do it,” Izzo said. “I don’t exactly know when.”

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