Look for Tar Heels to avenge title-game loss

Luke Maye’s game-winning shot to get North Carolina past Kentucky just gave Tar Heels coach Roy Williams the ninth Final Four appearance of his coaching career.

Williams’ Tar Heels, who were just here last season, will be surrounded by all new faces this year. Williams is the only one of the four remaining coaches who has coached a single minute in the Final Four.

And North Carolina is the only school still standing that has been in this position since Oregon won the championship almost 80 years ago. This is all new territory for the Gonzaga and South Carolina programs, two schools that just earned their first Final Four appearances ever.

No. 1-seeded North Carolina and Gonzaga being here is a major shocker to no one. Oregon advancing despite losing its best rim protector, Chris Boucher, might have come as a surprise to some people, but the real Cinderella story this season is South Carolina.

The Gamecocks, who have been the underdogs in almost every tournament game this year, have accomplished what many Indiana basketball fans prayed Butler or Purdue would do. South Carolina knocked off the No. 2- and No. 3-seeded teams before beating No. 4-seeded Florida.

Both Purdue and Butler had to play nearly perfect games in order to make it past the Sweet 16, and Boilermaker Caleb Swanigan’s six turnovers against Kansas was far from that. North Carolina’s Joel Berry was averaging just 6.5 points a game during the tournament and picked the wrong time to decide he wanted to drop 26 points against Butler.

Sports fans fantasize about watching a team that everybody assumed would fall through the cracks make a big splash in the tournament. The Bulldogs got their chance a few years ago with back-to-back Final Four runs, and now it’s time to let somebody else give it a go.

South Carolina will be looking to go 1 for 1 in the Final Four by winning its first national championship. Crowning the Gamecocks as NCAA champions would make for great headlines, but I wouldn’t bet my money on it.

I’m going to have to go with the North Carolina team that still hasn’t forgotten about Villanova’s game-winning shot that prevented the Tar Heels from winning their sixth title in school history.

Author photo
Frank Bonner is a sports writer for The Republic. He can be reached at fbonner@therepublic.com or 812-379-5632.