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Tuesday, April 7, 2009

Tar Heels win NCAA championship!

Posted by on Tue, Apr 7, 2009 at 3:45 PM

Was there any doubt?

North Carolina, which entered the season as the prohibitive favorite to win the national title, played extremely prohibitively on Monday night to win its second championship since Roy Williams returned home from Kansas in 2003.

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The Tar Heels dominated Michigan State and essentially decided the outcome in the opening minutes, ultimately dispatching the Spartans 89-72 in front of more than 72,000 fans in Detroit.

Carolina set a championship game record by scoring 55 points in the first half, shooting a torrid 53 percent in the process. Wayne Ellington was named the Final Four's most outstanding player, and his 7-for-12 shooting effort largely occurred in UNC's explosive first half. He finished with 19 points, four rebounds and no turnovers.

But if Ellington became the team's Donald Williams, the Heels didn't need him to be. Ty Lawson was tremendous on both ends of the court, shooting 15-for-18 from the foul line en route to 21 points. He also added six assists against just one turnover, and his eight steals set a championship record.

Lawson finished the NCAA Tournament with a staggering 4.85 assist-to-turnover ratio, and his 3.45 ratio for the season set a school record.

Tyler Hansbrough ended his career on a bright individual note as well, finishing with 18 points and seven rebounds.

You might ask how the Heels made it appear so easy in the final four games — they'd struggled somewhat with LSU in the second round, but they beat Gonzaga, Oklahoma, Villanova and MSU by double-digits — and the answer would boil down to team defense.

Carolina's perimeter defense, which I and everyone else had criticized for much of the season, tightened considerably in the tournament. The Heels were so good in the first halves of games that they actually slacked off a little offensively in the second half, but the defense remained consistently good.

Michigan State needed to out-rebound the Heels (which they did, 42-35) and hit a high percentage of their three-point attempts, but UNC held them to just 7-for-23 for the game.

And with Ellington and Green combining for 5-for-6 on their three attempts, the game lost all suspense early.

So what next?

Presumably, the Heels will lose Lawson and Ellington — both juniors — to the NBA. Star freshman Ed Davis, meanwhile, said immediately after the game that he'll be back. Chances are, he's telling the truth.

Carolina will be a very young team next season, but with a top recruiting class in tow and with the return of Marcus Ginyard to add experience, another solid postseason run could be in the works.

For now, though, Roy Williams can bask in the glow of two national titles, something only 13 coaches have accomplished. His mentor, Dean Smith, won two in 36 seasons—Ol' Roy needed only six seasons to match him.

Don't bet against him winning another championship, either.

To see the final box score of the season and admire the handiwork of one of the most explosive offensive teams in recent years, click here.

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