This is it. The National Championship.
The favored Heels attempt to fend off the hometown Spartans and approximately 50,000 of their faithful fans to win their second national title in five years.
Be back a little after tip. Enjoy ...
(If you haven't read Staple's column on a trio of Heels that should have a strong showing at June's NBA draft, click here.)
Chuck Liddy/Raleigh News & Observer/MCT
11:52: My night ends here. Enjoy One Shining Moment. I'll take it in from the couch and then hit the hay. We'll be back tomorrow morning with a little extra analysis to make sense of it all. A little preview: The Heels ... were ... simply ... better. G'night.
11:48: Wayne Ellington is your Final Four MVP (pat myself on the back for that one). He finished with 19 points -- 17 of which came in the first half. Lawson led the Heels with 20 points, 15 of which came from the line. Hansbrough got what he wanted and let it show with a jubilant celebration on the bench in the final minute. He added 18.
Suton finished with 17 and 10 for the Spartans, who turned the ball over 21 times.
11:47: Game over. North Carolina .. the 2009 NCAA men's basketball champion.
11:43: Long Island's Danny Green has fouled out after scoring six points and finishes a sterling UNC career. Green is the winningest Tar Heel player of all time.
11:37 Raymar Morgan fouls out with four points ... 2:36 left.
11:35: Clark Kellogg just said some of the Heels will get that championship "they came back for." In case you didn't already know, Staple disagrees.)
11:30: Durrell Summers with a pair of free throws. Not important, but just an excuse (I HATE to do this to Sticks, but have to be fair) to show this dunk one more time.
11:29: A little 10-4 run by the Spartans here to tease the fans. Korie Lucious, a three-point threat that they need here in the final minutes, just limped off the court after colliding with Lawson.
11:27: Like I said in my quasi-preview earlier today, Raymar Morgan needed to have back-to-back stellar games to give State a chance. He hasn't done that in more than a month and he didn't (four points so far) tonight. UNC 76, State 63 ... under five.
11:24: Hanbrough with a very Hansbrough-like bucket to move up to fourth place all-time for most career points in the NCAA tournament. He trails Christain Laettner, Elvin Hayes and Danny Manning, though he has a chance to pass Manning if he scores another four points.
11:15: We have a Hasheem Thabeet spotting! And the big Tanzanian has a pretty lady friend! Ohhhhhh ... A VC and Jamison spotting as well.
The official attendance has been announced and to nobody's surprise it's a Final Four record: 72,922. It smashes the old record of 64,959 for the Indiana-Syracuse final of 1987 at the Superdome in New Orleans.
11:11: Well give credit to State for slowing down the game (70-53 with 9 left). That's why the Carolina lead is 17 instead of 34.
11:10: The Heels are already in the bonus with 10:13 left. Carolina is one of the best free throw-shooting teams in the country. Further proof that this game is over ... and was over an hour ago.
11:05: Check out Staple's story on the Magic-Bird game here.
11:00: Spartans have turned the ball over 18 times so far... still 13 minutes left. They average less than 14 a game. UNC 62, State 46.
10:55: Check that. This game ain't boring if you're a Carolina diehard. It must be a great feeling to get this kind of performance out of your favorite team in a national championship game. Have I told you I wish UConn was here???
10:50: Eight steals -- an NCAA title game record. And we've got 16-plus minutes left.
10:47: And we're back! Magic Johnson at halftime that the Spartans have to go to Suton. They did, but UNC counters too fast. This game is over.
Oh, and Ty Lawson has seven steals. SEVEN. Seven's the key number here. Think about it. 7-Elevens. 7 dwarves. 7, man, that's the number. 7 chipmunks twirlin' on a branch, eatin' lots of sunflowers on my uncle's ranch. You know that old children's tale from the sea. It's like you're dreamin' about Gorgonzola cheese when it's clearly Brie time, baby ... God this game is boring.
10:21: Halftime! Thank god. Carolina leads 55-34. Here's hoping Tom Izzo can convince his boys to go on a 10-0 run after the break. Ellington leads the Heels with 17 while Hansbrough has 11. Carolina is 15 of 19 from the stripe, which helps.
Suton, despite some foul trouble, leads State with 9 and 6. Be back later ...
10:20: Ellington, two-point dunk shot! Carolina has now scored the most points in the first half (55) in title game history.
10:18: Lawson gets poked in the eye by Lucious. A blind ACC Player of the Year might be the only way to stop these guys. Wait ... he's their fifth-leading scorer right now. Nevermind.
10:13: Ta da! Heels up 18 now.
10:08 And for my next act, I'm rearranging the posts, so the latest updates appear at the top. When you're live blogging a game that features a 23-point first-half lead, you can do that sorta thing...
10:02: Third foul on Long Island's Danny Green sends Raymar Morgan to the floor in pain. Morgan, if you recall, is still wearing a mask after breaking his nose during the Sweet 16 against Kansas. After two minutes on the hardwood, Morgan gets up and walks to the bench.
10:00: Carolina box score is a thing of beauty for coach Williams: Thompson - 9; Hansbrough - 7; Ellington - 7; Davis - 7; Lawson - 5; Green - 3. Heels up 20 with 7:30 to play ...
9:54: I'm sorry, but he really does look like Beeker. One of the best college players ever, but you can't ignore the Muppetness.
9:50: One fourth of the way through the title game with Ed Davis at the line and it's 32-11 Heels. Gross. I miss UConn already.
9:48: Mr. Suton picks up two with more than 11 minutes left in the half. Uh oh. And your scoring leader right now? Deon Thompson (nine points). Wow.
9:45: Is it me, or are the Spartans relying too much on freshman Korie Lucious, who scored a surprise 11 points against UConn. This should be Kalin's game.
9:40: Carolina knows it doesn't have the bench power of the Spartans, who roll 10 or 11 deep. They've got some subs in now with the big lead. A smart play by Roy.
9:39: Remember this? It's 22-7 right now. I hope that doesn't happen again.
9:32: First TV timeout and the Heels have already put up 17 (to the Spartans' 7) less than five minutes into the ballgame. All five starters have scored. C'mon State. Make this a game.
9:30: You wanna run? You mean play basketball??? Yes, Carolina does, and that's not good for the Spartans. Only 12-5, but State has to gather itself right now.
9:27: Gorgeous scoop by Ellington. I'm telling you, I'm thinking MVP for big Wayne. Carolina looks ready.
9:24: One title game -- two tip-offs! Lucky us. And we're off ...
Photo credits: Tom Izzo (Mark Cornelison/Lexington Herald-Leader/MCT); Michael Jordan (Rashuan Rucker/Detroit Free Press/MCT); Goran Suton & Tyler Hansbrough (Photo by Streeter Lecka/Getty Images)