I’ve been conspicuously absent lately in writing about the Tar Heels. I just couldn’t bring myself to do anything during the NCAAs for fear of jinxing them.
Now that it’s over, and the mighty Tar Heels have won their fourth National Championship, hear me roar.
There’s no doubt that it takes a little luck to string together six big wins and take it all. Just look back to the Villanova game and the walking call at the end. Sure, it was questionable. But like the Villanova guys said, they should never have put themselves in that situation if they wanted to slay Carolina.
The ‘Nova game was their first real test, after winning the first two rounds easily. Michigan State ran out of gas, and in the end, so did Illinois.
It was clear to me (non-biased observer that I am) that the national media wanted Illinios to win. They cheerlead for the best storyline, and Illinios had it – hard-working middle America’s team of three-point specialists had a spotless reputation; Weber was doing it for his late mother; the team was ranked #1 all season and could break the regular season record of 37 wins by beating North Carolina in the finals.
That, compared to the Tar Heel story line: Basketball royalty that had lost its luster but was loaded with NBA-caliber talent; a coach, Roy Williams, who aw-shucks so much people have a hard time believing what he’s saying; a team still down in the dumps after major coaching controversy three years ago.
Who wants those guys to win? So the crafty media – ain’t no slouches, these guys – came up with their story line: Team vs. Talent. And it was clear who they thought the winner should/would be.
Illinois was Team. Carolina was talent. As Roy mentioned, in the old days that was like saying one team was white and one team was black. Again as Roy noted, that clearly wasn’t the case here, but those overtones were there.
But ol’ Roy worked that Team vs. Talent line totally to his advantage. That’s why he’s college basketball’s greatest coach. He needed one more motivator for the big game, and the national media handed it to him on a silver platter.
Guys, they’re sayin’ we’re not a team. Can you believe that? They’re sayin’ you got talent, but you can’t compete against a “team.” I don’t know about you, but dang, that pisses me off.
It was certainly an insult to the three seniors, Jawad Williams, Jackie Manual and Melvin Scott.
– Jawad, the quiet leader in the locker room who really didn’t get along well with upstart McCants and a few others who wore their emotions on their sleeves.
– Jackie, the hardest working man in blue who was one of the first players to understand Roy’s need for every man to give his all on the court; to be unselfish; to stop taking shots and play D.
– Melvin, the big-hearted cut-up who always knew exactly how to lighten the mood, even if his treys didn’t always go down.
So the Carolina TEAM, which had been through a rollercoaster ride – a ride magnified by the pressure of such high expectations at Chapel Hill – took it personally and went out and whipped Illinios.
It wasn’t even close in the first half. In the second, the Illini started hitting the threes and the game was on, but Sean May willed his teammates on to victory.
That will, that coming together, that TEAMwork, is what Carolina basketball is all about. I think more than a few people had forgotten that. Now they’ve been reminded.