DETROIT - It is easy to believe that it's mostly the Tys who bind this North Carolina basketball team together. That without senior All-American point guard Ty Lawson and senior All-American forward Tyler Hansbrough all things Baby Blue would fade to black tonight against Michigan State in the NCAA title game.
And UNC would clearly not be playing for its second national championship in five years without the two Tys. In tourney games alone, Lawson is averaging 20.5 points, 6.5 assists and two steals. Hansbrough's tournament numbers are 17.4 points, eight rebounds and 2.8 steals.
These guys aren't Batman and Robin. They're Batman and Superman, the neck-and-neck Tys, two separate but equal superheroes.
But good as the Tynamic duo are - and fellow senior Danny Green's right behind them - the key to victory against the Spartans may well be junior wing Wayne Ellington.
It was Ellington, after all, who hit five of seven 3-pointers and scored 20 points in Saturday's 83-69 semifinal win over Villanova. It was also Ellington who scored 23 against LSU defensive whiz Garrett Temple in UNC's second-round gut-check victory over the Bayou Bengals.
Said Tigers sophomore point guard Bo Spencer after that one, "Garrett is one of the best defenders in the nation. But we saw tonight that Ellington is a heckuva player. Every shot he took seemed like it was contested. But he's that good a player that he can still make those."
One stat to explain how good Carolina is when he makes those: When Ellington hits at least 50 percent of his shots, the Tar Heels are 48-0 for his career.
"When Wayne's hitting, it really stretches the defense," said Lawson. "The way Michigan State likes to pack it in, we need to knock down some 3s early to loosen them up."
Ellington was anything but loose early this season. After considering an early jump to the NBA last spring, the Wynnewood, Pa., native averaged but 12.8 points and hit but 34.6 percent of his 3-pointers through the Tar Heels' first 17 games.
But after drilling seven straight triples in the second half of a 82-65 victory over Miami, the 6-4 guard has averaged nearly 19 points an outing and hit less than 50 percent from the floor only five times over UNC's last 20 contests.
"I didn't come back to make my stock go up for the NBA," said Ellington. "It wasn't like Coach was going to let me put up 30 shots a game or anything. Coach even said that everything we did was going to be based on a complete team effort.
"We (Hansbrough and Lawson also considered leaving school early) came back because we thought we could do something really special. Not 'have to' do it. Just wanted to do it and here we are, one game from a national championship."
Yet as Ellington's early unimpressive statistics suggest, it hasn't ever been as easy as the pollsters thought it would when the Tar Heels began the season as a unanimous No. 1 in both the Associated Press and coaches polls.
"The minute we decided to stay, it got crazy around Chapel Hill," said Ellington. "Everybody was saying, 'This team could be the best in Carolina history,' and 'This team can go undefeated.' We didn't feel that way but we had to fight that all season."
But now the season is 40 minutes from completion and Hansbrough, Lawson, Green and Ellington are 40 minutes from a championship that would tie them together for the rest of their lives in the hearts of Tar Heel Nation.
So just how important is Ellington tonight against the Spartans?
"If Wayne is knocking them down early," said a smiling Lawson, "it could be a long night (for State)."