Monday, April 6, 2009

Tar Heels: Let's Me Reminisce Over You

I must admit that I'm a nervous wreck. Tonight is the NCAA championship game where North Carolina will take on Michigan State. My beloved Heels will be looking for their fifth title and second in five years.

These are the times where I reminisce about the other big games I watched the Heels play in. UNC's first title over Kansas happened 18 years before I was born. I've seen the 1982 title game over Georgetown many times, but I don't remember watching it happen (I was only six).

It makes me think of 1993 and 2005. Those Heels teams, like the one that will play tonight, were favorites to win the title all year long. They weren't the only ones, mind you, but fans and players expected to be there.

This year feels a lot like the 1993 team. Carolina went and lost in the 1991 Final Four and lost to Ohio State in the 1992 Sweet 16. And how about this: the Heels went into the ACC Tournament with three losses but had an injured point guard (Derrick Phelps) and didn't win it. UNC tore through the tournament (with a scare against Cincinnati thrown in) and beat Michigan for the title.

I remember that season and that team vividly. I was a senior in high school in Charlotte. I had just watch hated Duke win the last two championships and had to hear about it. So when the Heels won, I remember sitting in my bedroom cheering and just itching to go to school the next day.

The 2005 team was expected to have a shot to win it all. But unlike the 1982 and 1993 teams, they hadn't really been on that national stage in a couple years. While the 1982 team had played in the previous season's title game and the 1993 team was in the 1991 Final Four, the 2005 team hadn't gotten past the second round of the tournament. 2001 saw the Heels lose in the second round to Penn State; 2002 saw the Heels go 8-20; 2003 saw them in the N.I.T.; 2004 saw them losing to Texas in the second round. This wasn't a team that had really sniffed too much success.

The interesting thing about '05 was that Illinois was also playing at an elite level. It is very rare that the top two teams actually square off for the title, but UNC and Illinois did so. A great game with a lot of NBAers running around out there, the Heels squeaked out a 75-70 victory.

I watched the game in my Sportz Room feeling about as nervous as I am right now. My wife came down with about a minute left in the game. When the seconds ticked off to the title, I tackled my wife with a huge hug and celebrated. The next day, I went to work waving my Carolina flag.

Both the 1993 and 2005 teams had a center who was from Indiana (Eric Montross, Sean May). Both teams started the tournament in North Carolina (Winston-Salem, Charlotte). Both teams beat a Big Ten team to win the title.

This 2009 team has a center from Indiana (Tyler Zeller) and started the tournament in North Carolina (Greensboro). They will be taking on a Big Ten team for the title.

I'm hoping that tonight will bring a memory like that again.

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