UNC vs. Kansas for the national title could be epic: From Dean to Roy and beyond, blue bloods have deep histories

NEW ORLEANS – Duke vs. North Carolina was historic.

Kansas vs. North Carolina could be incredible.

Don’t automatically assume Monday night’s national title game will falter after Saturday night’s headlining saga. Duke is gone, but that hardly takes away from the blue blood and nostalgic appeal that ends this 2022 NCAA men’s tournament.

Consider: North Carolina has proven itself in five straight games – Hello, is anyone who hasn’t donned Carolina Blue officially a believer in this team? – that it is as good as any team in sport. Meanwhile, Kansas has seeded the No. 1, the only one of the top liners to make the Final Four. The Jayhawks resisted the undermanned Villanova’s push and are now favored for the national title by four points. If it happens, it would be the program’s fourth NCAA tournament crown.

These schools know their stuff well, even if the teams aren’t. It’s that history—a rich one, with many people intertwining two basketball royal houses—that makes an amazing set designer down here in the Big Easy.

This is the fifth matchup between these two in a Final Four/Title game, making UNC vs. KU the most frequent clash in Final Four history. It began in 1957 when the only game of the Final Four with three overtimes was decided 57-56 in favor of undefeated North Carolina 32-0, beating a Kansas team featuring a lanky player named Wilt.

Since then:

  • Kansas defeated UNC in the 1991 national semifinals
  • Carolina retaliated by beating KU in the 1993 semifinals
  • The Jayhawks defeated the Tar Heels in the 2008 Final Four when all four No. 1 seeds made it

Here we are rewarded with the first title game matchup between the schools ranked first (Kansas) and third (Carolina) in all-time wins. Hey you get an all blue Final Four you will have great historical context no matter who makes it to the title game. It is also the seventh meeting between the Jayhawks and the Heels in the tournament, ranking second in history.

The connections between the two run even deeper. Remember Dean Smith, the Carolina coach who used to be? Kansas Graduate. He was on the team that won the national title in 1952. Later in life, Smith is said to have done well; He retired with the Tar Heels with 879 wins (the most ever when he retired) and two national titles. Smith is considered the greatest coach in North Carolina history.

And yet, is he the best? Because for all the talk of Coach K’s retirement season, the final game of the season is actually a Roy Williams special. It could be argued that Williams, not Smith, is the best coach in UNC history. He won three national titles and 485 games, which translates to a win ratio of 0.748. Before that, of course, Williams was the steward of a Kansas program that dominated the 1990s and early 2000s. Williams won 418 games with Kansas in 15 seasons. He was in the building Saturday to gleefully cheer on Carolina’s soul-shattering loss to Duke. Surely the camera finds him early and often on Monday evenings.

Kansas-UNC now charmingly doubles as an unofficial farewell to old Roy a year later. How about that?

there is more Another former coach, Larry Brown, who guided Kansas to the Danny and the Miracles title in 1988, played for Smith at UNC in the 1960s. Maybe he’ll find a place near Williams. And since Bill Self and Hubert Davis are meeting at this moment, it’s the first time two coaches have faced each other as successors to the same person in a national championship game. Even Williams in Kansas, Davis replaced the same in Carolina.

If you want another, why not: North Carolina assistant coach Brad Frederick is the son of a formative and important figure in Kansas history, its late athletic director Bob Frederick.

I know this game has a chance to be great because who’s on the other side. There is an increase in the special factor here.

“I think whoever we play against tonight it would be incredibly special because both teams are as blue as can be when you talk about blue blood,” he said. “But to play a Carolina program that’s intertwined with Kansas history, in large part because Coach Smith played in Kansas and won a national championship in 1952, and then he goes on and is considered as good a basketball coach as ever.” Sport has trained over a period of time. I think that’s something special. Even though Coach Williams ran our program for 15 years and did a great job there and then returned to his alma mater and won three national championships, I think that certainly adds to the interest. So I’m very proud to be a part of this game.”

It’s Kansas’ 10th national title game. North Carolina is here for the 12th time (for the second time after 13 from UCLA). UNC are 2-0 in titular games in the Superdome, winning in 1982 and 1993. Speculation of Michael Jordan’s emergence continues to linger. To the best of my knowledge, he was not here on Saturday. But he showed UNC defeating Gonzaga in the title game in 2017.

And this is the 40th anniversary of his winner against Georgetown, which is the genesis of Jordan’s genesis.

“I don’t just want him to show up. I want him to play,” Davis joked Sunday.

Luckily for North Carolina, Armando Bacot will play. The man, who has 30 double-doubles this season, will start after briefly leaving with a lower leg injury against Duke. Not only will Bacot be in uniform, he told reporters on Sunday: “My right leg would have to be cut off so I don’t play.”

That rules. So does this matchup. North Carolina is attempting to do something not accomplished since the first 64-team field in 1985: win it all as No. 8.

The school that did that, of course, is the one that had to beat Kansas on Saturday to get here, Villanova.

This Carolina team bears no resemblance to Rollie Massimino’s ragtag group that pulled off one of the biggest upsets in American sports history. If UNC beats Kansas Monday night, the story will be threefold: Davis wins in his freshman season, UNC does so at No. 8, and beats Kansas as the icing on the cake after perpetually beating Duke two nights earlier.

Davis knows something about nagging losses on a Final Four leg, and here we delve deeper into how these two epic programs feel increasingly interchangeable. Davis revealed Sunday that in an earlier part of his life he built a convoluted ritual for himself every year: Watching the entire 1991 national semifinal loss he suffered as a player against Kansas.

“It was the hardest loss I’ve ever experienced in my entire life,” he said. “It would make me cry. And I was hoping it would be interesting, every time I watched it I would think it would end differently.”

The rite of passage ended in 2017 when Davis was an assistant on the title-winning UNC squad that defeated Gonzaga in Glendale, Arizona. A cleansing of the basketball soul. Now he’s getting a chance for any remaining redemption, although Davis sees it as a chance for his players. He insists this is her moment, her chance at something he didn’t capture while wearing a UNC uniform.

“It was personally the best place I’ve ever been,” Davis said. “I said [my players], I played in the NBA for 12 years and that was my most beautiful basketball player, the most beautiful moment just being part of the Final Four. I tried to convey to them how special it is to be here. It’s great that they can experience it now.”

Despite the entire NCAA tournament history between the two, these aren’t frequent foes. It’s usually this tournament that brings them together. UNC has a 6-5 advantage over Kansas all along, with the Jayhawks winners of the last three (all coming in the NCAAs)

There’s just too much familiarity here to believe this game can’t be a great one. Kansas is considered the better team, with North Carolina shouting into this matchup as the more compelling story. For nearly three weeks, it felt like Duke was fated to come here with Mike Krzyzewski. Now that it’s off the table, there’s an airiness here that could give way to a loose game with lots of possession and lots of scoring.

History awaits. Either Self will become Kansas’ first coach to win multiple titles, or Davis will become the first coach in history to win a national title in a first full season as head coach — as a No. 8 seed at that.

Come on now. It’s Kansas. it’s carolina It’s the state championship. It’s New Orleans. These games in this city have developed a habit of being classics. Hopefully that voodoo will be back in the building Monday night. UNC vs. Kansas for the national title could be epic: From Dean to Roy and beyond, blue bloods have deep histories

Dais Johnston

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