Detroit — Men vs. boys. Big brother vs. little brother. Future pros against a bunch of good college kids.
That summed up North Carolina’s 83-69 victory over Villanova on Saturday night. The ultra-talented Tar Heels simply never gave the Wildcats a chance to breathe, let alone whip up a fresh dose of Final Four magic.
Ty Lawson scored 22 points, Wayne Ellington had 20 more, and the Tar Heels, with their four, five, maybe more NBA-caliber players, stayed on a path that has seemed almost certain since the season began in November.
Tyler Hansbrough had 18 points and 11 rebounds to make this a quite successful return to the Final Four after a remarkable dud last year in a semifinal loss to Kansas. Next up, North Carolina (33-4) goes for its second title in five years Monday against Michigan State, an 82-73 winner over Connecticut.
“It feels good to be back here to get another shot,” Carolina forward Deon Thompson said. “Now that we have an opportunity, we have to seize it.”
The Spartans, located 90 miles up the road in East Lansing, certainly will have the crowd on their side. The talent gap, though? Eek. They’ll have to be at least 35 points better than they were in December when the teams met in this same building — a 98-63 UNC romp.
“They had a couple players that were hurt and came off a long road stretch,” Lawson said. “We know they’re a better team right now.”
Meanwhile, Villanova (30-8) ends a successful season two wins short of its first title since 1985, when Rollie Massimino coaxed one of the greatest upsets in sports history out of his guys — 66-64 over Patrick Ewing, John Thompson and Georgetown.
Thompson was on press row doing radio and Massimino was chomping his gum nervously behind the Villanova bench, part of the record crowd of 72,456 at Ford Field — half gone and streaming toward the exits with five minutes left.
But James Naismith himself probably couldn’t have helped ’Nova out of this one.
North Carolina simply had too much talent.
“They played a great game and are playing extremely well,” Villanova coach Jay Wright said. “They’ve got all the pieces, and we have great respect for them. We’ve been getting better every game, and we did not get better tonight.”