By Will Stevenson
It all started with the Carolina Panthers loss to the Denver Broncos in last year’s Super Bowl. The “Purple Shirt” brought out the greatness in Dwayne Wade as the Hornets lost to the Heat in last year’s playoffs. Then came UNC’s crushing loss to Villanova in a last second shot in last year’s title game. Next was HB-2. Add is the voter’s oppression. The Panthers followed up their Super Bowl appearance with a losing season. The Hornets are turning in a losing season and are currently on the outside of the playoffs. Cam Newton just had surgery, even though he was injured back in Week 16. Clemson and Dabo Sweeney win the College Football Championship.
But… There is redemption. And that redemption came Monday night.
Hi, I’m Will Stevenson, and I’m a Tarhell fan. Don’t worry, I won’t be stomping on any Duke necks within these words, I will just simply state the facts: This was a horrible championship game. For some strange reason, people hate Roy Williams with the fury of a thousand suns, and then there are people who aren’t in the UNC fanbase. This title game brought together two teams that played the old-school brand of basketball: Post play and defense. Both teams had scoring guards, length on the wings, and players in the post that resemble the early 1990s. Both UNC and Gonzaga were going back and forth as the favorite for the game, as they played through the post throughout the tournament and staked their claim on the defensive side of the ball.
This game was awful to watch, except for the end, which does not make it a good game. Just because it came down to the end doesn’t erase the terrible play of both offenses and the referees. 44 fouls were called in this game, and with both teams playing through the post, the game was called like a Big Ten game in early November. UNC shot 15 of 26 (58%) from the free throw line, and Gonzaga shot 17 of 26 (65%) from the line. Aside from the poor free throw shooting that didn’t come back to haunt the Heels, UNC shot 4 for 27 (15%) from the three-point line. Only one player connected on a three pointer for the Heels: Joel Berry II (4-13). Justin Jackson went 0 for 9 from behind the arc, and even airballing a few towards the end of the game. Gonzago shot 8 for 19 (42%) from behind the three point line. Both teams shot terribly from the field, I thought I was watching Michael Kidd-Gilchrist out there. UNC shot 26 for 73 (36%) from the field, and Gonzaga shot an abysmal 20 for 59 (34%) from the field. Gonzaga made only 20 field goals in this game: Let that sink in.With the fouls being called on both teams, the pace of the game was stuck in the mud, taking both the players and the crowd out of the game. Early on, most players were shooting airballs and both teams were geared up for their defensive efforts. Down the stretch both offenses were still running their offense, but UNC was able to keep the ball in Berry’s hands, even when Justin Jackson was tossing up off-screen bricks in the late stages of the game. Gonzaga missed on many opportunities as they passed up on post opportunities. Once again Kennedy Meeks was a force in the paint, playing in the post and denying shots late. Eventually, it was turnovers the did in the Gonzaga Bulldogs.
Now UNC has won the title, again. Will the UNC fanbase finally allow Roy Williams to live a peaceful life, or will the pressure be on for the 2017 season. With a starting lineup littered with seniors and juniors, this Tarheel team is looking to make a deep run in next year’s tournament. Let’s be honest though, a deep run to the Final Four is never good enough for the Tarheel fanbase: Only cutting down the nets will do.
Who knows, maybe someone should email the NCAA about the jumpball that lead to a UNC possession in whick Meeks hand was out of bounds. Oh, that’s right, we don’t do that sort of thing.