For Duke fans, watching UNC in the title game isn't the best feeling in the
world, and most will pull for Illinois, just as most UNC fans pulled for UNLV
twice. That's just the way it is here in the Triangle. No one asks
for quarter, and no one gives it.
That said, we'd like to note a few things.
UNC's senior class deserves a lot of respect for sticking around through very
difficult times. Certainly 8-20 was not easy, and from everything we've
learned, 8-20 with Matt Doherty was a special nightmare. The next year,
when they were successful, reports were rife that most of the team planned to
leave if Doherty returned. And a note here: it was never, to the
best of our knowledge, a planned stunt. They were all asked into Dick
Baddour's office and opinions were solicited.
Those guys have been through an awful lot, and while we're not UNC fans, we
respect Jawad Williams, Melvin Scott, and Jackie Manuel a great deal.
Scott had to adjust himself to life on the bench, yet became a better team
player there. Jackie Manuel was told by both of his coaches that he needed
to concentrate on defense to contribute to his team, and he has certainly done
Jawad Williams has been an enigma, and played out of position, and has
periodically said some really dumb stuff, but he's hung in there, and grown up,
and he's a factor.
We also have long respected Sean May, pointing to him his freshman year as
the guy who seemed like the natural leader for UNC. We didn't enjoy being
on the receiving end, but we have always thought he's a good kid, and have
admired his game and hard work.
We are not big Raymond Felton fans, and don't particularly like Rashad
McCants, who has just come across terribly. He says he doesn't care, but his
tattoos say otherwise.
And from all appearances, Marvin Williams is a wonderful kid. It's not too
often that you find a great player willing to accept a bench role. Yet
there he is.
And while Roy Williams, who we have poked a lot of fun at, is at times
infuriating (think his Internet reactions) and mawkishly sentimental, there has
never been a hint of misbehavior around Kansas or his UNC program. He's
not nearly as annoying a figure as Dean Smith, whose barbs were sometimes so
subtle it took hours to figure out what he was getting at. He seems like a
guy you could golf with or have a bit of fun with, and he'd be a reasonably
So does this mean we're pulling for the Heels? No, not really. We hope
for a good game, we wish a number of them well personally, and we're not going
to be crushed if they win, nor will we be jumping for joy if they lose.
What we're saying, really, is, it's their time, and let them have it.
It's not like the old days.
When UNC won in 1983, Duke was so far away from the same feat that the best
retort anyone came up with was a bumper sticker that read: "UNC may be #1,
but they still smell like #2."
Today, of course, it's different. Duke is one of the great powers in
college basketball, has three national titles and a bushel full of Final Four
appearances and has long since stopped using UNC as a measuring stick. UNC,
in turn, has their own tradition to draw on, and more power to them.
So let them have their day in the sun.
Anyway, after tonight, they can start to worry, because if they do win,
there's not much reason for any of the four likely underclass draft picks - May,
Felton, Williams, and McCants - to stick around. Their value will
never be much higher than it will be right after a title.
Duke will worry about Shelden Williams, and there may be other things to fret
over, but all in all, less concerns about next year than most schools.
So let's hope for a classic title game! Go refs!