Life imitates art, and this year’s men’s basketball team is a perfect example. The plot from "The Lord of the Rings" is basically an allegory for this season, particularly the NCAA tournament. Because of that, here's an explanation of who each player from the team would be if they were in "The Lord of the Rings".
1. Aragorn: Luke Maye
Aragorn isn’t an elf, dwarf, hobbit or wizard. He’s just a man who happens to be the last king of men. Aragorn does some pretty cool stuff in "The Fellowship of the Ring" and "The Two Towers," but it isn’t until he receives a re-forged Narsil that he goes into full-on king mode.
Maye gave steady contributions all year to the team and has hustled as hard as anybody, but when the tournament came around, he went into full-on king mode by scoring 16 points and 12 rebounds against Butler. Then in the following game against Kentucky, he scored 17 points, including a game-winning buzzer beater which is the equivalent of Aragorn summoning the army of the dead. The third book is called "The Return of the King."
I can only imagine that’s what it felt like when Maye went to his 8 a.m. the following day.
2. Legolas: Justin Jackson
Legolas shoots with unerring accuracy throughout the trilogy — his bow should be classified as a weapon of mass destruction. He single-handedly brings down an Oliphaunt. And Justin Jackson shoots with unerring accuracy — he now holds the record for most three-pointers made in one season in UNC history.
3. Gimli: Isaiah Hicks
Gimli tries to keep up with Legolas when it comes to fighting orcs, but it’s hard when you’re using an ax and Legolas is armed with a machine gun bow and arrow. It also doesn’t help that Gimli is constantly being sidelined by dead wargs, long jumps and water. Isaiah Hicks has incredible offensive skills but has been sidelined for foul trouble quite a bit during his career. But Hicks' shot with 26 seconds left in the title game to give UNC a three-point lead was a demonstration of his power and skill.
4. Boromir: Kenny Williams
Boromir was a member of the fellowship since they set out from Rivendell. He was tempted by the power of the ring, but no one could deny he added depth to the fellowship’s roster. Sadly, Boromir was slain at the end of "The Fellowship of the Ring." Kenny Williams isn’t dead, but he did suffer a season-ending right knee injury after contributing solid minutes and production for UNC.
5. Frodo: Joel Berry
Frodo is the ring bearer — he's the guy on whose shoulders fall the fate of Middle Earth. Frodo is tasked with taking the ring to Mount Doom and destroying it. Frodo does this while enduring some serious pain: stabbed by a morgul blade, speared by a cave troll, stung by Shelob (a giant spider) and had his finger bitten off by Gollum. Joel Berry played with a sprained ankle for some of the tournament, and then played with two sprained ankles en route to being the tournament’s most outstanding player.
6. Sam: Theo Pinson
Sam helps Frodo take the ring to Mordor, enduring hardships I don’t think most gardeners would endure for their employers. Frodo collapses on the slopes of Mount Doom, unable to go on, and Sam gives the greatest speech of all time before putting Frodo on his back.
Pinson is the consummate assister. It’s not always obvious on the stat sheet the impact Pinson has when he’s playing but watching the game you can tell he makes everyone better by being out there. Pinson also had the assist of a life time when he passed to Luke Maye for the buzzer-beater shot against Kentucky.
7. Pippin: Tony Bradley
Pippin became a Guard of the Citadel and defended the city of Minas Tirith from attack by Mordor. Tony Bradley has defended the paint all season from teams trying to attack it.
8. Merry: Nate Britt
Merry was willing to do anything to help the fellowship. He helped convince Treebeard to attack Isengard and stabbed the Witch-King of Angmar at the cost of his own health to save Eowyn’s life. Nate Britt came off the bench and was willing to help UNC win in any capacity, playing unselfish basketball.
9. Gandalf: Kennedy Meeks
Gandalf is a wizard. He works behind the scenes to make sure the fellowship succeeds: leading them through Moria, fighting a Balrog, bringing the cavalry at Helm’s Deep and defending Minas Tirith.
Meeks worked behind the scenes for most of the season, putting together a quietly impressive senior season. Then came the tournament and, much like when Gandalf returned after fighting the Balrog, Meeks turned it up a notch — making a key put back against Arkansas, posting 17 rebounds against Kentucky, 25 points and 12 rebounds against Oregon and blocking William-Goss’ shot at the end of the championship game. Meek’s performance in the tournament was truly wizard-like.
10. Galadriel: Shea Rush
Galadriel provided the fellowship with cloaks, lambas bread and other gifts to help them on their journey. Shea Rush made the whole team hats.
11.Bilbo Baggins: Stilman White
Bilbo said, “I feel thin, sort of stretched, like butter scraped over too much bread.” I can only imagine Stillman White feels this way.
12. Eomer: Brandon Robinson
Eomer comes in for solid minutes to save the day at Helm’s Deep and the battle of Pelennor fields. Brandon Robinson gave quality minutes during the season and tournament for a first-year.
13. Faramir: Seventh Woods
- Faramir tries to be Boromir and does an admirable job. Seventh Woods had to take up some of Kenny Williams minutes after his injury.
14. Treebeard: Kanler Coker
Treebeard was originally tree herder before destroying Isengard. Kanler Coker was a football player before joining the basketball team.
15. Eowyn: Aaron Rohlman
Eowyn joined the Rohirrim through her own will and desire to fight. Aaron Rohlman joined the team as a walk-on because of his will and desire to be on the team.
Serious Bonus Round
16. Sauron: Gonzaga
Sauron has never quite been able to conquer Middle Earth, much like Gonzaga has never quite been able to win the NCAA tournament.
17. Witch-king of Angmar: Greg Sankey (and the rest of the ringwraiths are the NCAA)
An NCAA investigation has been hovering over UNC Athletics for what seems like forever. The ringwraiths quite literally hovered over the fellowship in the Lord of the Rings.
18. Saruman: Kentucky
Saruman is an elite wizard that defected from the good side to the bad side and started producing Uruk-Hai in the hopes of winning. Kentucky is an elite program that has adopted the one-and-done culture, which isn’t necessarily a bad thing but hasn’t led to a whole lot of winning.
19. Gothmog: Oregon
Gothmog believed the age of men was over and the time of the Orc was beginning before getting destroyed by the Rohirrim. Oregon believed it was their time to win a National Championship before losing to UNC in the Final Four.
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