July 22, 2024

Monday Madness: Championship Monday

The National Championship is finally set. North Carolina vs. Villanova. On this week’s Monday Madness, staff writer Dalton King looks back at each program’s last championship, and notices similar patterns between each program’s previous championship teams.

How fitting it is that all the madness comes together on a Monday? All semester, I’ve been writing this column, building up to this day: the National Championship, between No. 1 seed North Carolina and No. 2 seed Villanova.

Tonight, the king of the madness will be crowned, and HIS NAME IS JOHN CENA!!!

Okay, that’s too far. Back to this sentimental intro.

This year, we saw five different teams atop the AP Top 25, with no clear favorite emerging. A No. 15 seed (shout-out to Middle Tennessee) took out a tournament favorite in Michigan State. Northern Iowa hit a half-court buzzer beater against one team from the Lone Star State (University of Texas), only to collapse in epic fashion against another (Texas A&M).

We had a 10 vs. 11 seed match-up in the Sweet 16. All four No. 1 seeds reached the Elite Eight, but only one survived to Houston. Villanova wrecked our expectations in the Final Four, holding Oklahoma’s Buddy Hield to nine points on the biggest stage.

March came, madness happened and then there were two.

The team in powder blue. Yeah, they’ve been here a few times, 10 times to be exact. Hailing from Tobacco Road in North Carolina, the Tar Heels are going for the program’s sixth title. Head coach Roy Williams is 2-0 in the championship game, winning in 2005 and 2009.

Let’s take a look back to 2009, the last time North Carolina was cutting down the nets.

2009

The year is 2009. I was celebrating my 12th birthday with friends, and we were excited to watch the national championship.

The stage is set.

Despite a loss in the ACC Tournament, the 28-4 North Carolina Tar Heels were the No. 1 overall seed, headlining the South Region of the bracket. If you are a basketball fan, you remember this North Carolina team. And if you can’t, you should at least be able to recognize a few of these names from the NBA.

The Tar Heels were led by the imposing post presence of senior forward Tyler Hansbrough, the sharpshooting of Wayne Ellington and Danny Green; and their small, but deadly floor general, Ty Lawson. This is one of the best college teams in recent memory, sending these four standout prospects to the NBA Draft (all of them but Danny Green were drafted in the first round).

But this wasn’t a roster of one-and-done prospects from Kentucky. Hansbrough and Green were seniors, while Ellington and Lawson were juniors. These guys came back for one more year together and delivered big time.

Who did they draw in the Final Four? You guessed it, Jay Wright and the Villanova Wildcats.

The No. 3 seed had been through the gauntlet, knocking off No. 2 Duke and No. 1 Pittsburgh. But Carolina easily handled the Wildcats, advancing after a dominant 83-69 victory. Sorry Villanova, better luck in 2016?

In the championship game, they faced No. 2 seed Michigan State. While not a star yet, the Spartans had a freshman player named Draymond Green you perhaps might have heard of. While Michigan State boasted a pretty talented roster, they were no match for the Tar Heels.

The Big Four for Carolina controlled the game, leading to an 89-72 victory over the Spartans and the program’s fifth title.

Hansbrough dominated the paint, scoring 18 points. Lawson ran the show, leading all scorers with 21 points. Even though he shot only 3-of-10 from the floor, Lawson knocked down 15 free throws. Ellington, on the other hand, shot lights out. The senior scored 19 points on 7-of-12 shooting from the field, and knocked down all three of his three-point attempts.

The other sharpshooter, Danny Green, did only what was needed, knocking down a couple of threes. A few years late,r he did the same thing, breaking all kinds of NBA Finals’ records in 2013. Only in 2009, his team actually won the championship.

The heroes of this super team went on to the NBA, leaving North Carolina with just an NIT appearance the next season.

That was 2009, the last time North Carolina was the last man standing in the Big Dance. Can Williams and the Tar Heels win another one led by more dominant post play and not nearly as much sharpshooting?

Or will the guys in navy blue ruin another team’s pride on their way to a national championship? Let’s take a look back at 1985, the last time Villanova was in the championship.

1985 

The 1985 NCAA Tournament. The elite of college basketball — Hakeem Olajuwon, Sam Perkins and some skinny kid named Michael Jordan were finally out of the way, opening the door for some new teams to compete.

But there was one problem. The defending champion Georgetown Hoyas, led by the intimidating Patrick Ewing, were still around. And they were looking for another title.

The three-time consensus All-American was averaging 14.6 points and 9.2 rebounds on the season and was the best player in college basketball. Ewing won the Naismith and Big East Player of the Year awards.

Needless to say, the 1985 championship game was a weird one between the No. 1 seed Georgetown Hoyas and No. 8 seed Villanova Wildcats. In a truly David vs. Goliath sort of comparison, there was no way Villanova would beat Georgetown, right?

Wrong.

In 1985, the Wildcats became the lowest seed to ever win the NCAA Tournament, a record that still stands today. The Wildcats upset Ewing and the Hoyas 66-64, completing one of the most memorable Cinderella runs in tournament history.

Simply put, Villanova would not miss, shooting for a record 79 percent from the field. In the second half, the Wildcats shot 90 percent and missed just one shot overall. They had to play perfect, but they did and took down the giant.

Now in 2016, Villanova looks to continue to make the doubters look bad and win the championship.

They aren’t a No. 8 seed, but they definitely are not the favorite to win.

2016 

Welcome back. Here in 2016, Villanova and North Carolina are looking to recreate the magic that their teams of the past had.

Like in 2009, the Tar Heels will try to dominate the paint, but this time with Brice Johnson and not Tyler Hansbrough.

The Wildcats’ shooting performance against Oklahoma was not as amazing as their performance in 1985, but it was pretty darn close. In order to take down the No. 1 seed again, Villanova will have to once again make a very high percentage of its shots.

North Carolina likes to run the floor and get the ball down low. The Wildcats like to disturb the peace and make you scratch your head at how many shots they are making.

But one thing is true for both teams. No matter how long ago it was that they were last in this position, both teams see the opportunity before them and are ready to fight. Tonight should be a great national championship match-up between the two most dominant teams this March.

Whether it’s 1985, 2009 or another Monday in 2016, we can always count on the NCAA Tournament to be great. Tonight should be a great finish to this fantastic season.

Featured image by Dalton King

Edited by David Bradford

Dalton, a firm believer that sporting events are best spent on Twitter, is an Assistant Sports Editor for TNJN and a sophomore studying Journalism at the University of Tennessee. Two of his favorite pastimes include beating his roommates at 2k and remaining in awe of the amount of stories fellow editor David Bradford writes. Twitter: @dk_writes