On one end, you have Roy Williams' class of '09, a recruiting class dream from '05, one constructed in the midst of Sean Mays and Raymond Felton's own championship run that same season.
The Tarheels' roster contains the ACC Player of the Year (the dynamic Ty Lawson, whose play comandeered UNC to its current place in Detroit), one of the most decorated players in ACC and NCAA history (four-time All-American and one-time NCAA Player of the Year Tyler Hansbrough), and some stand-out talent that has factored mightily into this current Final Four drive (Wayne Ellington, Deon Thompson, and Danny Green). In these past four seasons leading up to Monday night's matchup with the Spartans, the Heels are a combined 123 - 22 (winning at an obscene .848 clip), with three ACC regular season titles and two ACC tourney championships to their credit. Already in a better position than last year (in which the Heels were run out of the gym by Bill Self's eventual champion Kansas Jayhawks), Hansbrough's Heels has its sights on cutting down the nets late Monday night; after all, this team has collectively achieved all it could possibly attain as a program, sans a championship banner to hang atop the Chapel Hill rafters.
Then, you have the Michigan State Spartans, 30 years removed from a Magic-led championship run that produced the highest rated NCAA title game of all-time (the '79 title game against Indiana State, they of Larry Bird stature).
Coach Tom Izzo has foreseen this: Michigan State being granted the opportunity to vie for the NCAA title at Ford Field, a mere 91 miles from East Lansing.
Imagine not only leading your team to the Final Four, but doing so in front of your hometown crowd (last night's game drew an astounding 72,000 to watch Michigan State manhandle UConn to the beat of an 82-73 triumph). Imagine rallying a state and a nation around you in support of a true "blue collar" team, ultimately allowing the country to forget about the automotive industry's collapse, if only for a weekend. Coach Izzo's Spartans, doing so with defense and athletic prowess (scoring 80+ for the first time this calendar year behind Kalin Lucas's 21-point effort and Durrell Summers' RIDICULOUS hops), have seen their hopes burgeon to fruition: of the 7 teams representing the Big Ten Conference, the Spartans stand head-and-shoulders above the rest. They will now compete for a title after having beaten last year's champion (Kansas) and Big East supremacy (UConn). They deserve their place in Detroit (and can perhaps vanquish the losing culture Ford Field has endured over the year).
Much like last year (in a Memphis/Kansas match-up), Monday's UNC/Michigan State face-off gives us fans plenty of reasons to root for both sides.