Big, bad Big East.
And UConn goes down.
The Michigan State Spartans, playing with an enormous homecourt advantage at Ford Field in Detroit, wore out and then knocked out the Connecticut Huskies in the first national semifinal, 82-73. With 72,456 fans looking on, the Spartans led at halftime by 38-36, took a big UConn punch at the start of the second half, gathered its wits and then methodically beat down a team that had theoretically been hardened by the toughest conference in the nation. The Spartans have now beaten Louisville and UConn back to back, two of the three best teams in the Big East.
A look at the box score told you all kinds of things, but the exhaustion on the faces of the Huskies, from 7-foot-3 Hasheem Thabeet on down, told the real story. The Spartans played 11 players -- and that was in the first half. They looked quicker than UConn for long stretches. They looked fresher, they got to more loose balls, and they just got pounded in the end. They did cut the deficit to four points in the final 90 seconds, but there was no follow-through.
For the Spartans, Kalin Lucas was the leading score with 21 points and Raymar Morgan had 18. For UConn, Thabeet had 17 points. But the absolutely crucial stat was this: UConn had four players who played at least 32 minutes. Michigan State had only one, and it showed.
And now we get to see how many of the Michigan State fans stay to root for underdog Villanova over North Carolina.