The Daily Tar Heel

Serving the students and the University community since 1893

Wednesday May 25th

Column: The Tar Heels have what it takes

<p>North Carolina teammates Justin Jackson (44), Joel Berry (2) and Nate Britt (0) share a laugh after defeating Duke in the Smith Center on Saturday.</p>
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North Carolina teammates Justin Jackson (44), Joel Berry (2) and Nate Britt (0) share a laugh after defeating Duke in the Smith Center on Saturday.

(Quick: Stop reading this and go knock on wood.)

Did you? Good. Let’s continue.

First, I admit that as a UNC student with a photo of Roy Williams in a sideways ACC Championship hat taped to my bedroom door, I’m biased. But hear me out.

The Tar Heels — ACC outright regular-season champions — have the talent. They’re led by two stars: ACC Player of the Year Justin Jackson and All-ACC Second Team selection Joel Berry.

While other teams have their hot shots, they pale in comparison to UNC’s depth, including Kennedy Meeks — the ACC’s second-most efficient shooter and fourth-best rebounder — Isaiah Hicks, Theo Pinson and Tony Bradley. Nine players average over 10 minutes per game, and four average over 10 points.

In NCAA Tournament play, where fatigue or foul trouble can be the kiss of death with so many games decided in the final minutes, depth is huge.

And that’s just the top of the list. Don’t forget rebounding, where the Tar Heels lead the nation with an average rebounding margin of 13. Remember how they beat Duke on Saturday? How about that 65-41 home win over Virginia? The 11-point Louisville win? Of those games, the Cardinals scored the most second-chance points with eight. Those kinds of numbers win championships.

While UNC uses its rebounding edge to rein in opponents, it buries them with scoring in notoriously fast-paced play; that’s why the Tar Heels are so much more fun to watch than other teams (cough, cough, Virginia).

The nation’s 11th-best scoring offense boasts an arsenal of 3-point shooters and capitalizes on opportunities with 18 assists per game, the nation’s fourth-highest average. But UNC’s superior strength is arguably in the paint, where it grabs 42 percent of its misses.

Defending UNC is like leaving Rams Head Dining Hall without taking a cookie for the road: Doable, but to borrow Roy’s words, dadgum difficult!

That brings me to head coach Roy Williams. Roy has led UNC to the Final Four or better four times, and only five college coaches in basketball history have more national titles. North Carolina could not be in better hands.

Roy isn’t the only experienced one. Every single UNC starter played in last season’s national championship game. They know what it takes. And they have something to prove.

Last season had the most painful ending imaginable, but that’s also the Tar Heels’ biggest strength. Their heartbreak became their fire. In the months of ruminating over 4.7 seconds, they — more than anyone else in the country — clung to one goal: going back.

Bring me a team that has greater hunger, motivation and drive than these players do. I’d wait, except you won’t find one. Not now, not last year, maybe not ever. A team like this will not go down without bleeding. A team like this will not go down. Period. That leaves only one prediction worth having.

The University of North Carolina will become The University of National Champions.

@rblakerich_

sports@dailytarheel.com



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