February 28, 2020
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Heels’ run reminder of 1993 Bears

As a sports fan, there are times when all you can do is smile and nod.

You may not like what you are witnessing at first, but then you realize it is a masterpiece.

It’s like going to a classical music concert if you’re into southern rock.

You may not care for the music, but to watch a highly-trained musician perform is memorable and worthy of your admiration.

I’m not a North Carolina basketball fan.

I never will be.

They win too much and I’m not sure their athletes have to be as dedicated academically as their North Carolina neighbors Duke and Wake Forest.

However, watching the Tar Heels embarrass Michigan State in MSU’s backyard during Monday’s 89-72 NCAA championship game victory was impressive.

Fifty-five first-half points! A 21-point lead! Both were NCAA championship game records.

Remember, this was in front of 72,000 people, most of whom were cheering for the Spartans.

And Michigan State had absolutely nothing to lose. After all, it had lost to the Tar Heels by 35 points in a regular-season game.

North Carolina never allowed the Spartans to find any semblance of a comfort zone, and the Tar Heels were extremely unselfish with the ball.

The Spartans had upset UConn by beating the shot-blocking Huskies up the court and converting easy baskets.

Unfortunately, a UConn-North Carolina matchup would have been much closer and much more entertaining, although the Tar Heels still would have prevailed.

North Carolina not only ran with the Spartans, they smothered them with their swarming defense and forced them into turnover after turnover and rushed shot after rushed shot.

The Tar Heels also controlled the boards.

It was one-and-out for Michigan State while the Tar Heels generated several second- and third-chance opportunities off the offensive glass.

And when North Carolina star Tyler Hansbrough helped up a Michigan State player who dove after a loose ball, it reinforced my belief that this North Carolina team is a classy champion.

I can’t help but compare this North Carolina team to Maine’s 1992-93 NCAA championship hockey team which was chosen the best team in the 25-year history of Hockey East.

Each team had offensive game-changers: UNC had Hansbrough, Wayne Ellington and Ty Lawson while Maine had Paul Kariya, Jim Montgomery and Cal Ingraham.

Both teams also had vital secondary scorers: UNC had Danny Green, Ed Davis and Deon Thompson while Maine had Patrice Tardif, the Ferraro twins (Chris and Peter) and Mike Latendresse.

Having secondary scorers meant if the game-changers weren’t having good games, the secondary scorers could take over and lead the way.

Each had unselfish role players who contributed in ways other than scoring.

Both teams valued the concept of tenacious team defense and recognized its importance, especially in the postseason.

Each team had a swagger, a quiet confidence.

They felt you simply weren’t going to beat them, no matter how well you played.

They knew they would always find a way to beat you.

They had targets on their backs throughout the season, but used that as motivation.

Both were coached by legends: Roy Williams at UNC and the late Shawn Walsh at Maine, and both had exceptional senior leadership.

The teams both etched their marks on NCAA sports.

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