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Selflessness key to Tar Heels' amazing ride


March 27, 2005 | ESPN.com's NCAA Tournament coverage

More from Vitale — Carolina tradition looms large

Roy Williams' quest for his first national championship continues. The veteran coach is in his third Final Four in four years. In 2002 and '03 with the Kansas Jayhawks, Williams came close but didn't get to cut down the nets.

Now, as the head coach at North Carolina, he gets another crack at it. It hasn't been easy to get his philosophy, theory and belief about the team concept across to his UNC players. The Tar Heels were a bunch of individuals with big-time reputations.

Raymond Felton
Raymond Felton and North Carolina are on their way to St. Louis.
North Carolina's players were more concerned about their own stats than about putting a priority on the team winning. Williams broke them down, as you do with a young thoroughbred getting ready to run in the Kentucky Derby.

Williams got these guys ready to play. Once players like point guard Raymond Felton and center Sean May, two beautiful guys, came aboard, Rashad McCants followed. Yes, McCants sulks and pouts at times, but the bottom line is that he cares and wants to win.

McCants has bought into the team concept. His moments are not about individuality but about doing the right thing.

Then there's diaper dandy Marvin Williams and veteran Jawad Williams, along with defensive dynamo Jackie Manuel. It all adds up to the makings of a national championship contender.

That's why, on our Final Four wrap-up show last April, when I was asked the last question about the 2005 champion, I picked the Tar Heels. I believed in their leader, Roy Williams.

Yes, the Tar Heels have played as a group this season instead of as individuals. Williams won an average of 28 games per season at Kansas, and you don't enjoy that kind of success without a plan. He made four trips to the Final Four with the Jayhawks, so he has credibility and he gets people to listen.

Williams is a flat-out winner, baby!

North Carolina faced quite a battle against Wisconsin. The one thing we've learned in this tournament is that there are many outstanding coaches out there. Men such as Bo Ryan of Wisconsin and John Beilein of West Virginia proved their ability as leaders. Some feel they have labored in obscurity. But they worked hard, the old blue-collar way, and they certainly shined in the Elite Eight. Their programs have prospered.

The Badgers fought so hard. Wisconsin alums should be proud of sophomore forward Alando Tucker, senior forward Mike Wilkinson, senior guards Clayton Hanson and Sharif Chambliss, and the whole crew. They played their hearts out. Who would have thought these teams would be tied at 44-all at halftime? Patient Wisconsin might have wanted the final score to be in that neighborhood!

Perhaps the Badgers would have taken the air out of the ball and played for a game in the 50s. So much for utilizing the clock – instead, Wisconsin matched North Carolina basket for basket. In the end, Felton was perfect from the line down the stretch, and the Big Three of May, McCants and Felton was too much for the Badgers.

May recorded his 12th double-double in his past 14 games. His dad, Scott, had to take special pride. The former Indiana All-American, who in 1976 led the Hoosiers to the last undefeated national championship, had to be a nervous wreck.

Now his son will have a chance to enjoy a Final Four.

Dick Vitale coached the Pistons and the University of Detroit before broadcasting ESPN's first college basketball game in 1979. Send a question to Vitale for possible use on ESPNEWS.

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