Izzo and his players have embraced their role as beacons for a state reeling from the economic crisis.
"It's a storm in the city, so we're trying to bring sunlight," Lucas said.
Williams and his players are attempting to reach a pinnacle many, including themselves, envisioned after Ty Lawson, Wayne Ellington, Danny Green and Tyler Hansbrough chose another year of college instead of the NBA after last season's Final Four loss to Kansas.
"I probably have dreamt about winning a national championship since I was little, even playing on my Fisher-Price court," Lawson said. "Counting down from five, me hitting the game-winner. I've been waiting for this."
Lawson's painful big toe injury — semifinal victim Villanova will attest to his recovery — was the most recent drama surrounding the Tar Heels but hardly the only. Green continues to field questions about his father, who last season was released from prison after serving about two years on a drug charge; Hansbrough, the ACC's all-time leading scorer, is concluding a storied college career.
The Tar Heels could become the first champions since Indiana in 1981 to win each of their tournament games by at least 12 points.
"It's been surprising," Carolina forward Deon Thompson said. "When you think of the magnitude of these games, you don't expect to it to be as easy as it's been for us. When we were sitting on the bench last night, Ed (Davis) and I were joking around because it didn't seem right that we were up by so much. I do expect a fight out of Michigan State."
Let's hope so. Let's hope Carolina-Michigan State joins Kansas-Memphis, Syracuse-Kansas, Carolina-Illinois and Duke-Arizona as this decade's memorable championship games.
And if the Tar Heels spoil the Spartans' feel-good mission, so be it.
"I do realize they have a cause," Williams said. "Well, we also have a cause. We want to win a national championship, period, the end. And if you would tell me that if Michigan State wins, it's gonna satisfy the nation's economy, then I'd say, 'Hell, let's stay poor for a little while longer.' "
David Teel can be reached at 247-4636 or by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org For more from Teel, read his blog at dailypress.com/teeltime.