April 2, 2005
"People forget about Sean May. That's hard to imagine, given that he just made second-team All-American, but it's true. Listen to conversations about North Carolina's basketball team. Usually, they concentrate on the enigmatic Rashad McCants, the impulsive Raymond Felton or one of three Williamses everything-but-a-national-title Roy, remarkable freshman Marvin or slumping Jawad.
"May? The junior is the rock this team is built upon and the anti-McCants as far as maturity and constancy. May is a sturdy symbol that post players don't need to be seven feet tall to dominate in college basketball. He also has one of the most gifted pairs of hands a Tar Heels big man has ever boasted. Ask long-time Tar Heels observers, and they will tell you that only Bobby Jones and Julius Peppers caught the ball in traffic as well as May does. Felton makes May look good, but the converse also is true: May grabs anything the point guard throws and lays it in the basket."
Columnist Scott Fowler, in the Charlotte (N.C.) Observer
"North Carolina's seniors were 8-20 as freshmen. Yes, 8-20. At North Carolina. That did not get Matt Doherty fired. Then. But it did get him fired. Melvin Scott, Jackie Manuel and Jawad Williams came to a school that had been to 15 Final Fours and had six 30-win seasons. UNC was home to three national championships and Michael Jordan. North Carolina, 8-20. The name and numbers didn't add up. But there they were. Three years later, here they are.
"Roy Williams was brought back to his alma mater two years ago to clean up the mess. It is far from a mess anymore. It is clean. Is it clean enough? These Tar Heels have no shortage of stars or potential first-round picks. But do they have it?' The Tar Heels' eight-man rotation unquestionably is the best in America. Still, is it good enough? Despite what you might hear, there are no Jordans or Worthys in this bunch. Do they have enough big-game experience? Can they win everything when this is the first season they experienced winning anything?"
Columnist Dick Jerardi, in the Philadelphia Daily News
"These Tar Heels are too good. Ridiculously good. Even when they're bad, they're good. Missed shots become offensive rebounds. Mistakes of aggression pay off because opponents can't withstand the waves and waves of firepower.
"There's plenty to tell about the Tar Heels, but here's all you need to know: Marvin Williams, UNC's prized freshman, may never become a sophomore. He very well could hit the NBA lottery. He's 6-9, 230 pounds and moves like a guard. Whether it's a run-for-cover thunder dunk or a feathery pull-up jumper, he's nearly impossible to defend. More experienced teammates speak about Williams in awestruck tones. And he doesn't start. He doesn't start!"
Columnist Joey Johnston, in the Tampa (Fla.) Tribune
"You know that saying about how a child shall lead them? It doesn't actually apply in this case. But it's part of the conversation. These Tar Heels are as loaded as any basketball squad this side of the NBA West. Their starting lineup encompasses Raymond Felton's feet, Sean May's hands, Rashad McCants' touch, Jawad Williams' poise, Jackie Manuel's reach. They've got Melvin Scott and David Noel bounding off the bench to sink jump shots and lay a little D on rival scorers. They can drop some serious point totals on you. They boasted all those ingredients a season ago and didn't survive the second round.
"They've since added some bonding agents and one Marvin Williams. They've become a threat to win it all. Amazing what a little growing up and a 6-9 phenom can do for you. He would've been a lottery pick out of high school. He's that gifted. He's explosive. He's fluid. He's coachable (If they could give me enough food to eat, I'd coach for nothing if they were all Marvin Williamses,' Roy Williams said a few weeks ago.) He's UNC's second-leading rebounder and its best foul shooter. He's as good as gold and as gifted as advertised."
Columnist Bob Lipper, in the Richmond (Va.) Times-Dispatch
"No one ever questioned North Carolina's talent. Last season, Rashad McCants (scoring), Sean May (rebounding) and Raymond Felton (assists) became the first trio of teammates to lead the Atlantic Coast Conference in those categories, and they all returned for their junior years. The only doubt about the Tar Heels was how well they would play together. With so many stars, would there be enough basketballs to go around?
"Coach Roy Williams helped alleviate that problem last fall, giving the team a simple motto for the upcoming season and convincing them to believe in it: It Is Amazing What Can Be Accomplished If No One Cares Who Gets The Credit.' Suddenly, McCants was turning down shots to pass to May, who in turn was going after rebounds with more intensity than ever. And Felton did what he always does, pushing the ball up the court and forcing the tempo of the game. The result was stunning, an outright ACC regular-season title for the first time since 1993 and a No. 1 seed in the NCAA Tournament. Now, North Carolina (30-4) is one victory away from the Final Four."
Columnist Keith Parsons, in the Associated Press
"There is a myth, actually a stereotype, about athletic talent that North Carolina has simultaneously represented and smashed during this tournament. The suppositions are that talented players don't work hard, that teams with loads of talent don't play together and that physically gifted players don't play smart.
"Wrong. Wrong. And wrong. North Carolina has depth and talent, size and speed. Williams has upperclassmen, but he also has a freshman, Marvin Williams, who is already one of the best players in the country. And the team plays together."
-- Columnist William C. Rhoden, in the New York Times
"Carolina is basketball royalty, but the Tar Heel nation had been pained in recent years, watching neighborhood rival Duke become a regular visitor and having to watch Mike Krzyzewski appear on those seemingly endless commercials. All is right in their world now. Carolina is still playing, and the Dukies are sitting at home in Durham after losing to Michigan State in the Sweet 16.
"North Carolina (31-4) was expected to be here, and why not? The Tar Heels have the most pure talent in the country, with five future NBA players May, freshman center Marvin Williams, senior forward Jawad Williams and junior guards Raymond Felton and Rashad McCants. But they have been casual and careless at times. After Villanova threw an unexpected scare into them with dribble penetration in the Sweet 16 and Carolina struggled to find its patience and defensive intensity against Wisconsin, the Heels could be more vulnerable than originally thought.
"But Roy Williams will try. Williams was brought in last year to correct an ugly situation. Former coach Matt Doherty had signed the nucleus of this team May, Felton and McCants but he was unable to control their wild side. After an 8-20 season in 2002 and a nondescript exit from the NIT quarterfinals, the school had had enough. Williams, a Dean Smith disciple who spent 15 years transforming Kansas into a perennial national power, appears to have found enough glue to hold this group together, so far."
Columnist Dick Weiss, in the New York Daily News
"A national title in Carolina, post-Dean, would be huge for Chapel Hill. But it might be even more cathartic for Roy Williams. It's ridiculous to hold a great coach to the flame for annually losing in a single-elimination tournament. Still, like Jim Boeheim before him, no one will be able to say Williams loses the big ones.
"He won't need approval from all those jilted Kansas souls. He won't have to feel guilty about winning with players Matt Doherty recruited to Carolina. He won't feel bad about the man who took his old job, Bill Self, losing to Bucknell in the first round with players Roy Williams recruited at Kansas. Maybe Roy Williams can be at peace with his decision and stop sounding in countless interviews like the boss who fires an employee and then tries to make him feel good about his decision.
"It's time to let go and not expect the Jayhawks legions to still attend worship. It's time for Williams to stop worrying about what everybody in Lawrence thinks and move on. He was the one who left. What's done is done. After all those great teams and exceptional players all the frustration Williams may be closer with this group than he's ever been. Premier players are needed to win a national championship. Williams has more thoroughbreds left in the tournament than any other school."
Columnist Mike Wise, in the Washington Post
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