The Final Four

For the first time in the history of the NCAA Tournament all four #1 seeds convene at the Final Four.

If UNC is to win a national title it will be against the toughest Final Four field ever.  The consolation UNC fans can take is that the previous toughest Final Four ever was won by the Tar Heels in 1993 when three #1 seeds and a #2 made their way to New Orleans.  This year’s version is a stacked field with UNC, UCLA, Memphis and Kansas having been both challenged to win tough in at least one game and dominant in the others.

And if the chalky nature of the Final Four was not enough of a headline, the added bonus is UNC plays Kansas which pits Roy Williams against the team he coached for 15 years/  The funny thing about that subplot is it really only means something to the Kansas fans.  None of the players on this team were recruited by or played for Roy.  Bill Self has no discernible connection to Roy either.  In short, this particular story angle really carries no weight outside the Jayhawk fans’ desire to stick it to Roy and the fact Roy will be a tad emotional over the whole thing for about 3.6 seconds then he will be focused on winning the game.  And I actually think the real story is the pressure on Bill Self to get the job done.  Self had one gigantic gorilla taking up full residence on his back over even reaching the Final Four.  The next one is actually winning the title.

Similarly UCLA’s Ben Howland is at the Final Four for the third straight season and undoubtedly is feeling the weight of possibly being referred to as the Buffalo Bills of the NCAA Tournament.  As for Memphis, they are in much the same boat as Kansas having been on the cusp long enough and finally have broken through.  In that respect all of these teams are talented and experienced.  By all accounts this is potentially could be one of the best Final Fours in recent memory given the caliber of teams in San Antonio.

In this age of increased parity it is a bit ironic we finally get all four #1 seeds to the final weekend which means who ever wins the title can also lay claim to having done it in the toughest of circumstances.

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38 Responses to The Final Four

  1. Russell says:

    I know this is a Heel’s blog and that we’re moving on to the Final Four, so please bear with me as I just have to say this: I love the b-ball that Davidson plays. It steams-off the fluff and “flava” (if you will) of star spangled showoffs and distills the game down to it’s essence – at the distinct displeasure of those showtime teams. Curry is the freak that rattles the Wildcat’s cage but all b-ball aficionados recognize that Davidson is a TEAM that plays the game, for saying Game. They know it, understand it, run it, and FORCE recognition of it by opponents. Mickey D 5-Stars are relegated to ground-zero earth in the face-up. McKillop is a better coach than K (among others) and one may see clearly see that. KU, G’town, UNC – they all must make oblation to the Essence of the Game when meeting Davidson. I love that.
    Thanks for listening.

  2. Catherine says:

    Does anyone know yet if we’re playing in the first or second game on Saturday?

  3. JPinFL says:

    Second game….approx 8:47pm ET tip.

  4. Any chance we can beat Memphis? I saw them lay waste to a pretty good Texas team. I understand that Rick Barnes really isn’t the brightest crayon in the box when it come to coaching, so I have to wonder if that was just about physical ability by the Memphis players, or did Barnes not really come up with a good plan to neutralize Memphis’ size?

  5. C. Michael says:

    Here is a question I always struggle with: if your team is going to lose in the Final 4, is it better to lose on Saturday, or Monday? I go with Saturday, just because actually making the FF is a huge accomplishment in itself, so the sting of losing the first game wouldn’t be as painful as the sting of losing when your team is just minutes away from a title.

    Disclaimer: If the Heels lose on either day, as far as my living room is concerned, it doesn’t matter; something will still get broken…

  6. 52BigGameJames says:

    maybe a better question this year Michael would be what would be the benefits to UNC losing on Saturday (if you’re looking for some pre-game salve).

    1.) maybe the Jayhawk fan-bile would finally subside
    2.) we get Tyler, Wayne and Ty back for another year
    3.) you get your Sunday and Monday back for personal projects
    4.) for me personally, I get to concentrate on Disneyworld w/the family, and not have to hunt down a good sports-bar in Orlando.

  7. C. Michael says:

    Agree completely, For me, #4 is the fact that I am also a diehard Mets fan, so with opening day today, at least I will be able to focus all of my anger on rooting for my other team!! 😉

  8. MDtarheelfan says:

    Memphis seems to me to be the toughest team to play. Texas looked bad but Memphis is big, strong and quick. I think UNC can handle KU and I am glad the Heels are facing them instead of Davidson. Davidson was playing good team ball and had a hot player which can create some tough April magic. In order for the Heels to take it all Tyler needs his 20 pts and 10 boards, Lawson’s speed and minimal TO, Ellington or Green to hit 14 -16, and Deon and Stevenson to play BIG on defense. Everyone on the team is contributing in some postive way on this team and if that continues I do not see the Heels losing.

  9. chris says:

    Oh, goodness — here it comes. North Carolina vs. Kansas. You know what that means. Roy Williams coaches the school that made him a champion (UNC, 2005) against the school that made him a legend (KU, 1988-2003). It’ll be a miracle if somewhere in the midst of all that existential angst we actually get the chance to talk a little basketball. Hey — what do you know? That’s what we’re here for. Pure hoops. And there will be some serious hooping in this game, for sure.

    North Carolina game plan: The Tar Heels have no choice but to push the pace at every opportunity. It’s what they do best. Although they’ve improved dramatically as a halfcourt team, to the point where they’re now close to excellence, they’re always more comfortable when attacking a defense that hasn’t yet had the opportunity to set itself. Watch out for star Tyler Hansbrough as a trailer. Kansas’ bigs might not have the defensive discipline to be waiting for him when he arrives at the 3-point line. On defense the Tar Heels might learn a lot this week by watching how Davidson kept its frontcourt defenders in a triangle around the basket, allowing Darrell Arthur, Sasha Kaun and Darnell Jackson to make post catches and daring them to shoot over the top. The Heels could get away with that more readily because it’s harder to shoot over a 6-10 defender than somebody a few inches shorter.

    Kansas game plan: When the Jayhawks are most comfortable, they have two post threats, multiple perimeter shooters and a variety of ballhandlers who can penetrate and make plays. They like to do a lot of penetrate-and-pitch action to create open shots from the wing, particularly for Brandon Rush. They will isolate any of their top three bigs on the right block. Darnell Jackson, Darrell Arthur and Sasha Kaun have become reliable post scorers, although Jackson has faded a bit recently as a threat on offense (only one double-figure game in the past five). On defense, they are excellent at trapping off ball screens, which could challenge UNC’s Ty Lawson, and Mario Chalmers and Rush can take turns chasing shooter Wayne Ellington through the halfcourt.

    X-factor: One of the nation’s most balanced teams has an answer for almost any opponent’s tactics. But the close Davidson game revealed a surprising dearth of players eager to make plays under pressure — and there’s certainly plenty of pressure at the Final Four level. Center Sasha Kaun and point guard Sherron Collins, neither a fulltime starter, attacked most aggressively down the stretch of the regional final. If KU plays with fear, the Tar Heels will consume that fear like a ham sandwich.

    Bottom line: If you had to rely on Hansbrough or on any one of KU’s players — take your pick — who would you choose? Kansas has multiple bigs, and several have extremely quick feet, but it’s unlikely that will be a great distraction to him. He has faced that sort of defender before. It seems risky at this point to bet against Hansbrough without a good reason.

    Tyler Hansbrough website.

  10. william says:

    I agree Chris. Down the stretch against Davidson, Kansas did not have a go-to guy. Their last possession was about as incompetent as Davidson’s last possession. I don’t see the Jayhawks as being particularly heady and Kaun is downright lumbering. Texas may have given us a hint as to how good the Jayhawks really are, not as good as the other 3 finalists. I don’t think anyone would have been very impressed hearing that they beat Villanova and Davidson in the regionals, although the Davidson victory looks better now. Still, I was unimpressed with their play, about as unimpressed as I was with our play against Davidson, so I guess we will see. Vegas has Kansas as 3 point dogs.

  11. Tar Heel Fan says:

    Pomeroy says:

    Kansas 83 UNC 78…Jayhawks have a 65% chance of winning.

  12. Tar Heel alum and fan says:

    Fortunately Memphis and UCLA have to battle it out; both are very good and UCLA’s center is versatile, especially with Collison feeding him the ball. The Love kid also has an outlet pass that reminds me of Wes Unseld’s downcourt bullets. Kansas presents a lot of problems for UNC because they are athletic and can play great defense. However, I do not think they have an answer for Tyler down low (who does?). As previously stated, if Ellington, Green and Lawson can hit from the outside, if UNC can work their transition game at spots all game long and if Thompson/Stepheson can play at an elevated level then the Heels will be a very tough out.

  13. william says:

    Well, THF, Pomeroy had the Jayhawks as 8 1/2 times as likely to win it all as UNC. He can’t change things now, can he. Our profile is looking more and more like Florida last year. Like them, we are the top offensive team, with a defense that some see as suspect, but also a seasoned team that knows how to win, with All American players leading the way. Kansas is a team with 8 or 9 excellent players but they really have no go to guy.

  14. william says:

    I have never understood why people talk about Wes Unseld all the time. I pulled up his Rookie of the Year/MVP year from the late 60’s and Wilt Chamberlain was better in every way. Maybe Wes was a better team member, which is something the stats guys don’t like to admit exists.

  15. william says:

    Let me do a bit of pop psychology here. Isn’t interesting how many of these Jayhawk haters, are the same ones who say that Bill Self is a much better coach than Roy Williams. Well, shouldn’t they be glad Roy left then? Could the reality be that they realize that Williams is the better coach?

    Aside from that, Roy didn’t exactly leave the cupboard bare, now did he? They went to the Elite 8, while Roy was going out in the second round, with the supposedly better Carolina team he had left them for.

    FWIW, my opinion is that Self is a better recruiter than Roy, in the same way that Bob Higgins is a better recruiter than Roy, maybe, but that Self does not seemed particularly distinguished as a teacher or strategist compared to Williams.

  16. keithunc says:

    The final four…

    We a fun year this has been. In my humble Carolina opinion were unbeatable. We’ve peaked at exactly the right time. We have Six studs on our team and another that could start for any team out there (stevenson). Plus QQQ is playing huge for us. Granted anything is possible. Any team can get lucky for one game and beat us. But I don’t see it. We seem to have that “it” this year. Were not panicky, we do not seem to get that wide eyed look in tough close games. Every team left is a good team. Were just better. Go Heels.

  17. keithunc says:

    ^ what a fun year this has been.

  18. william says:

    They are starting to resemble the 2005 team, more and more, and have a decent back-up point guard to boot, something they didn’t have back then. I also have to say that Hansbrough is now officially better than May was, having added the outside shot to his repertoire and being even a better free throw shooter, although May wasn’t bad from the line.

  19. Displaced Heel says:

    I have said all year that being as balanced as they are is the Achilles heel of the Jayhawk team. I believe it was Chris who said they had no go-to guy. That is correct. My husband (a Jayhawk) was concerned that there wasn’t a Jayhawk being considered for Big 12 POY. I couldn’t pick one. They are all very good, but there is no go-to guy. It very nearly hurt them against Davidson, and I believe it will hurt them in the FinalFour.

    Also, I think there is one bench player left that Roy recruited: Jeremy Case. I may be wrong; we were trying to remember, and think that Roy recruited him.

    This season isn’t over; I think we will be done on Monday, after we send Memphis home.

  20. william says:

    Andy, as to whether there is any chance that Carolina can beat Memphis, yes, there is.

    As to whether it is better to lose on Saturday or Monday, it is better to lose on Monday. First, it means one more game watching Q and this wonderful group of guys. If Ty and Wayne are committed to going pro, then so be it, but I really think they haven’t considered the plight of Joe Forte fully at this point. I mean, I love Ty, but 5′ 11″ average shooting point guards are not exacting taking over the NBA, and Wayne may have perfect form, but in the NBA they will expect him to hit exactly the same percentage that he is currently making from the three point line, but from five feet further out.

    I may not be Red Auerback but I think that Carolina has one guy ready for the NBA and his name is Tyler, and has a combination of athleticism (did you see that rim-rattling dunk when they Heels really needed it the other night), shooting touch and hard work that guarantees success. The only reason why some people say anything different is reverse racism. Ask Michael Wilbon about this phenomenon. He says that the European players have no fear of playing with blacks and believe that they cannot compete, but Wilbon says he has met white athletes over and over who have switched sports from basketball to football or baseball because they do not believe they have “what it takes.”

    Second, If anyone thinks that the Jayhawk haters will stop if they beat us, think again. They will just keep playing gotcha with that one forever. Honestly, I think our winning in 2005 silenced about half of those people, because they didn’t want Roy to win one, unless it was with Kansas and obviously most of those people have let it go now. The others will never let it go.

    On the other hand, i think about half of their fan base continues to genuinely admire him and wish him well. Roy doesn’t do a very good job of hiding his emotions and how can any thinking person not be effected by the truly gut-wretching hard time he had making those decisions back in 2000 and 2003.

  21. 52BigGameJames says:

    chris–great post-thanks! I really wish there was a website where you could get an overhead view of the action in some of these games. It would be interesting to see Louisville’s adjustments from a bird’s-eye view, as well as some of the other FF group. I too think we’ll at some point see Tyler trailing, and posting up top for a 3. Love the ham-sammich reference 😉

    It’s funny, but most of the posts reference our need for balance on offense which I agree with, but the glaring omission is Marcus. I shudder to think how good we’d be if he were to play up to what I believe he could add on offense.

    I agree william–the only Kansas fans who still hold a grudge against Roy, are the insignificant ones…same ones who will eventually turn on Self if he doesn’t “measure up” in their opinion.

  22. C. Michael says:

    I agree that Hansbrough is a better player than May was, and yet May was a lotto pick, and Tyler is expected to be a late 1st rounder. How odd…

    (To be fair, May would not be a lotto pick this year either because the draft will be so loaded…)

  23. rwise says:

    I thought its was just me BUT outside of a layup or an offensive rebound did Marcus take a shot at all during the last 2 games???

  24. william says:

    I can’t say I know much about Jeremy. How about that kid from Asheville who got stuck out in Lawrence after Roy left. I know he graduated, but I wonder what he is doing now. He was an OK player but terrible from the line. Kansas seems pretty mediocre from the line this year as well.

    By the way, only one Big 8/Big 12 team has won the NCAA title the last 50 years and that team had perhaps Kansas’s best player ever, whom they stole from UNC by offering his father an assitant coaching position, although strangely enough, Coach Manning was not hired after Larry Brown left.

    Texas did not exactly make their conference look good in the tournament, struggling with Miami and basically getting annihilated yesterday–it is hard to overstate how pathetic Texas was yesterday in spite of all that great coaching they get from Rick Barnes.

  25. Josh Bowling says:

    William, I completely agree with your lengthy post. You also can’t appease anyone who doesn’t like you. And because Roy Williams will continue to be successful, even losing to Kansas will not stop the hatred. I think we are better/slightly superior to Kansas. More than not having a go to guy, I am convinced that all of their players can beat you. I think that is a great attribute to Kansas. Only the media, with their anti-Carolina biases, can give Kansas some hope. I know they fear us. Who wouldn’t? Kansas knows we have a chip on our shoulder, and are still out to prove something. Kansas has already recieved some of their glory by being praised by sports analyst all year. We have yet to get “ours”.

  26. Tar Heel alum and fan says:

    William – Wes Unseld’s outlet passes were legendary; some feel he was the best ever in that regard in the NBA. At the end of his career, at the 1978 NBA Championship series, I watched him make amazing outlet passes, often hitting teammates in stride down the sidelines and well past half court. The outlet passes of UCLA’s Love have that Unseld look to them.

  27. Tar Heel Fan says:

    rwise,

    According to the shot charts which can be found on the CBSSportsline scoreboard for every game, Marcus has taken exactly one jump shot in the last four games. Everything he has scored from the floor has either been a layup or dunk.

  28. Josh Bowling says:

    I like Wes Unseld’s “all business” approach to the game. He, and John Stockton, rarely ever smile except after the game is won. I kinda like that about both.

  29. william says:

    Did any of you guys know that the Beach Boys had three albums in the early 70’s that were great, great albums? We are talking CCR great, if not quite Beatles great. In honor of Kevin Love and to show that we are good sports, I am going to review them on my blog, link forthcoming. I am sure everyone can’t wait.

  30. william says:

    I loved his hair, but he was not the greatest coach here in DC, but take a look at NBA reference and tell me if you think he was MVP. Of course, it is a team sport, so I am not being dogmatic here but it looks like people sometimes just like to go with the new guy, Wilt, it was like, been there, done that.

  31. 52BigGameJames says:

    no, but you are being contrarian–it’s not like they make those things (MVP awards) up out of thin-air. I saw him play many times, and that year he DID have an MVP season. I agree with Tar Heel alum and it crossed my mind too that Love recalls Unseld. Why does it always have to be either/or? Am I missing something or did Wilt once play on a Rec League team McGuire coached?

  32. william says:

    I am just making the point that Wilt had the better stats that year, but apparently the voters thought that Unseld improved his team even more than Wilt did.

  33. william says:

    Wilt played for McGuire on the Philadelphia Warriors, who went 49-31, the year Wilt set his scoring record and hit 100 points.

  34. Tar Heel alum and fan says:

    My point really just had to do with the outlet pass and the fact Love has a style of play that reminds me of Unseld. Obviously Wilt was the much better player, as were Kareem and Shaq for that matter. But both Unseld and Love have that somewhat chubby look, but skill levels that are deceptive. I’d enjoy watching him and Hansbrough go at it.

  35. william says:

    Elvin Hayes was on those Bullet teams as well. You don’t hear about them much because they only won one title, but they were pretty good, with Bob Dandridge, Kevin Grevey, Mitch Kupchak and Phil Chenier, but they were really good from about 1973 to 1980.

  36. Tar Heel alum and fan says:

    I was living in D.C. when they won the NBA Championship; that was an excellent team and you’re right, because they only won one title most folks don’t remember them.

  37. william says:

    Yeah, strangely enough, that wasn’t one of their best regular season teams as I recall.

  38. Kallipalooza says:

    Great posts, interesting viewpoints… it’s going to be a fun weekend!

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