Monday, April 6, 2009

VSR Part 1: I Got The UNC Blues

Congrats to North Carolina for winning the 2009 College Basketball championship. They dominated from start to finish – winning nearly every game by double digits – and they let Michigan State know they meant business. 55 first-half points, 8 steals by Ty Lawson, led most of the game by 20…for a second I thought we were going to watch a repeat of UNLV-Duke in the 1990 final.

This UNC squad was a preseason No. 1 and during the tournament they looked like the team everyone thought was going to win the title. Most dominant run we’ve seen in a while? Absolutely.

It’s been an interesting decade for Roy Williams. 2003 – his Kansas squad loses to the title to Carmelo Anthony, Gerry MacNamara and Syracuse and despite speculation he’s leaving for UNC, he famously tells CBS’ Bonnie Bernstein “I don’t give a sh-t about Carolina.” 2005 – beats Illinois with a great starting five who hasn’t done much in the NBA to get his first title. 2009 – won as many titles as mentor Dean Smith.

Best college coach in America? Hate to say it as a Duke fan, but he’s surpassed Coach K as of now. Better recruiting, better teams and frankly if I could ball, I’d sign with UNC.

So now comes the debate if Tyler Hansbrough is one of the greatest college players ever? Well he’s one of the most celebrated and decorated players ever. A four-time All-American (twice on the first team), national player of the year, ACC Player of the Year, jersey retired by UNC…BUT he’s probably the most unlikely great player in recent history. He’s not Tim Tebow (although the media’s treatment of him reminds me of such) but he found a way to produce every game.

Frankly I don’t know. I didn’t watch him thinking I was seeing one of the all-time greats. I saw him as a great player who had an outstanding career. Is he really one of the greatest Tar Heels ever – better than Michael Jordan, James Worthy, Antawn Jamison? Sometimes we confuse most decorated for best ever and sometimes that just isn’t the case. I generally assume you’re the best by virtue of how you play, not your collection of stats. Hansbrough was one of the best players of this decade but if Blake Griffin played two more seasons, I’d say that he was a better, more dominant player.

But maybe Psycho T’s dominance wasn’t evident to the naked eye. The fact that he was so active on the low block, the fact that he was – hate to use this stereotype – a hard worker who maximized the most of his ability. Maybe because in any other decade prior to the 90’s, this debate would be stupid because he’d stand out among his peers.

So I’ll let longtime basketball observers with more perspective make the call. I just can’t see it right now and maybe I need some time to pass to make the call.

Props to backup PG Larry Drew (left) who won a L.A. City Section championship last year with Taft High School in Woodland Hills and was the City Section Player of the Year. One of my first stories was on him as a junior and it's great to watch him potentially take over for Lawson next year.

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