Home » Columns » Currently Reading:

This national championship is a little different for Roy Williams and North Carolina

April 6, 2017 Columns No Comments

Roy Williams has now won three national championships, and all of them are undoubtedly wonderful for him. He’s now a long way from the time he was constantly asked if he could win “the big one.” But this one probably feels a little different than the first two, and not for the most obvious reason that has already been much-talked about – a sense of redemption from a year ago.

Simply put, this North Carolina team doesn’t hold a candle to his first two title teams from a talent standpoint.

No question, there’s a feeling of redemption, for lack of a better term. A year ago, the Tar Heels lost a memorable championship game on a buzzer-beater, and just seconds after they completed a rally from being down by ten points with just a few minutes to go. There is unquestionably a reason to feel like they finished what they tried to a year ago.

But that takes a back seat to something else: talent.

The teams that Williams won national titles with in 2005 and 2009 were built to win titles. They were expected to get to the Final Four and possibly win it all, and with a lot of future pros. The 2005 champions had five McDonald’s All-Americans, along with some pretty talented players who didn’t quite make the game like Reyshawn Terry and Jackie Manuel.

The 2009 champions were the unanimous preseason No. 1 in both the AP and USA Today Coaches Polls, led by eight McDonald’s All-Americans, three of whom were first round picks in the NBA Draft that year and two more who were drafted in the first round in later years. The senior class that year never lost a game at Cameron Indoor Stadium, an amazing accomplishment that has only been done by two other players, Wake Forest’s Tim Duncan and Rusty LaRue. All of that speaks for itself.

This year’s team, in contrast, had six McDonald’s All-Americans, which means they had more than the 2005 champions. However, this year’s group is unlikely to match the 2005 team at the professional level. Four Tar Heels were lottery picks in the 2005 NBA Draft; this year’s team likely has no more than two future first-round picks: junior Justin Jackson and freshman Tony Bradley, and neither projects to sniff the lottery if they come out this year. Frankly, this team wasn’t even the most talented team in the ACC; Duke was, and not by a slim margin (though not by a mile, either).

Aside from numbers of any kind, anyone who has paid attention could tell that recruiting had fallen off at North Carolina of late. There was a time when the Tar Heels got seemingly any big-time prospect they wanted, but that has been far from true the last few years. Williams has a pretty good idea of why that is.

“Maybe I’m not as good, or we’re not as good, but in the first ten years we recruited 26 McDonald’s All-Americans,” Williams said before the national championship game. “And the last three I think we got one.”

After the national championship game, he added, “We didn’t get a lot of guys we wanted to get.”

In fact, the Tar Heels have recruited four McDonald’s All-Americans over the past three classes (2014-16), and 26 total during his tenure, so his numbers are a bit off. But the gist of his comment is unchanged. Negative recruiting from NCAA allegations of infractions at the school has unquestionably hurt the basketball program. Even so, this is still a team with talent that over 300 Division I schools would love to have. And it was enough to win a national championship.

One thing that national champions over the years have had, with very few exceptions, is high-end talent. That is exactly why Villanova’s win in last year’s game was so big – that team was not loaded with top 10 prospects or future NBA lottery picks. Their best NBA prospect might have been a freshman reserve on the team, Mikal Bridges, who is far from a household name even after he started harnessing some of his potential this season.

Teams don’t win with talent alone, but having it goes a long way towards winning championships. Put another way, it is no guarantee of a championship, but it is a prerequisite. Since the Tar Heels haven’t had the same level of raw talent, this title is a story in perseverance and player development as much as anything. You can go right down the list.

Jackson always had a ton of potential, going back to when he was a freshman in high school and played up in the Nike EYBL, and this year he really started harnessing it and developed into the ACC Player of the Year. Joel Berry II was their most important player, and when they needed him most – the national title game – he responded despite being hurt. Kennedy Meeks is in far better shape now than when he arrived in Chapel Hill. Theo Pinson has been hit with injuries, but when healthy his intangibles have been big and he made big plays in their title run.

This team, let’s not forget, was the regular season champion in a juggernaut ACC. The conference didn’t have a great NCAA Tournament run, with the Tar Heels being the only member to reach the second weekend, but it had immense success all year and North Carolina came out on top with an outright title – by two games, no less, over three teams that tied for second place.

Roy Williams now has three national titles as the head coach at North Carolina, putting him one ahead of Dean Smith. He doesn’t think this puts him ahead of his mentor in any way, and that’s a debate for others to have. But this one probably feels quite different from his first two there, and not just because they lost at the buzzer a year ago, though that is understandably one reason for it.

Comment on this Article:

Subscribe to Hoopville

Enter your email address to subscribe to Hoopville


Hoopville Archives

College Basketball Tonight

We hope you enjoyed COLLEGE BASKETBALL TONIGHT during the 2016 NCAA Tournament. COLLEGE BASKETBALL TONIGHT is a comprehensive look at the NCAA Tournament hosted by veteran college basketball broadcaster Ted Sarandis, along with co-hosts Mike Jarvis and Terry O'Connor, both former Division I coaches. It also included many great guests, including Hoopville's own Phil Kasiecki.

The show aired on AM 710 WOR in New York City on Sunday evenings starting with Selection Sunday and running through the NCAA Tournament.

Here are links to the shows:

March 13, 2016 - First hour | Second hour

March 20, 2016 - First hour | Second hour

March 27, 2016 - First hour | Second hour

April 3, 2016 - First hour | Second hour

Everybody Needs a Head Coach

Former college basketball coach Mike Jarvis has a new book out, Everybody Needs a Head Coach.

"As you read this book, I hope that Coach Jarvis' experiences inspire you to find your purpose in life."
-Patrick Ewing, NBA Hall of Fame center

"Mike Jarvis' is one of my special friends. I am so pleased that he has taken the time to write this fabulous book."
-Mike Krzyzewski, Five-time NCAA championship head coach, Duke Blue Devils

"In reading this book, I can see that Mike hasn't lost his edge or his purpose. Readers should take a look at what he has to say."
-Jim Calhoun, Three-time NCAA champion, UConn Men's basketball

Review on Hoopville coming soon!

Coaching Changes

The coaching carousel is moving. Keep track of the latest coaching changes right here on Hoopville.

Hoopville Podcasts

Talking Hoops With Ted Sarandis – February 7, 2018

February 7, 2018 by

In our latest podcast, we talk about a big sweep in the SEC, look back on the wild Saturday, then talk about a Big Ten showdown and some undefeated teams in conference play.

Talking Hoops With Ted Sarandis – January 31, 2018

January 31, 2018 by

In our latest podcast, we talk about a lot of what has happened in the ACC and SEC, including the Big 12/SEC Challenge, whether or not Kentucky is turning a corner, as well as the story at Michigan State.

Talking Hoops With Ted Sarandis – January 26, 2018

January 26, 2018 by

In our latest podcast, we talk about a wild night in the Big Ten, adversity and a quiet leader in the ACC, what to make of Kentucky and look ahead to the Big 12/SEC Challenge.

Talking Hoops With Ted Sarandis – January 18, 2018

January 18, 2018 by

In our latest podcast, we talk about big road wins for a few teams, including a couple of bluebloods that looked destined for losses, as well as an unsettled Big Ten beyond one team, an SEC where you shouldn’t pay attention to bracketologists, and the problems with a proposed earlier start to the college basketball season.

Talking Hoops With Ted Sarandis – January 11, 2018

January 11, 2018 by

In our latest podcast, we talk about several big pieces of news away from game play, one of which puts a lot in perspective. We also talk about the lack of dominant teams and how this has shown up in the results, especially this past weekend.

Phil Kasiecki on Twitter

Recruiting Coverage

Lincoln captures Hamilton Park title

August 15, 2017 by

For the first time, a public school won the Hamilton Park Summer League, and they were led by a big effort from a junior point guard in the title game.

Notes from a day at the 2017 Boston Shootout

June 12, 2017 by

Some news and notes coming from the second and final day of action at the 2017 Boston Shootout, where the host program provided plenty of talent, but so did a program that produced a team that beat them.

Notes from a day at the 2017 Northeast Hoops Festival

April 11, 2017 by

The Northeast Hoops Festival helped bring in the new spring travel season in New England, and we have notes from some of Saturday’s action.

2016 Boston Back to School Showcase notes

September 12, 2016 by

We look back at the 2016 Boston Back to School Showcase, where a couple of Boston City League teams were among the most impressive on the day.

2016 Hoopville Spring Finale championship recap

June 28, 2016 by

We look back at the championship games of the 2016 Hoopville Spring Finale, which had a big local flavor as one might have expected.