North Carolina won its sixth national championship in program history Monday night, outlasting Gonzaga, 71-65, in one of the most tightly called title games in recent memory. Each team was whistled for 22 fouls and shot 26 free throws, sapping the game of its natural flow.
“This wasn’t the refs’ finest hour,” former Tar Heel and current CBS Sports college basketball analyst Brendan Haywood said on CBS Sports Radio’s Tiki and Tierney. “There were definitely some missed calls down the stretch of the ball game. Then there was the play when they gave Gonzaga an extra possession when they said the ball was tipped out by Carolina on a three-point shot when it clearly wasn’t, which led directly to a three-pointer by Nigel Williams-Goss. There was a lot of fouls. There was inside foul trouble on both sides. So it wasn’t the officials’ finest hour, but at the end of the day, the players still decided the game. In this situation, I’m glad the officials were bad on both sides. They were equally bad.”
In any event, Roy Williams won his third national title and will now be considered one of the best coaches of all time.
“I don’t think there’s a way that you can’t put him in the top five,” Haywood said. “I think getting to (the final) in the college level is harder than the pro level. If you sign a guy in the pros and he’s really good, you’re going to have your franchise guy for four, five, six years – even 10 years if you resign him. In college, you’re going to have your best player for one year – two max – and then you have to start it all over again. I think what Roy has done at the college level is absolutely phenomenal. He’s definitely in the top five when you talk about a man that’s won three titles (and played) in 11 championship games.”
Williams has won three national titles, three ACC Tournament championships and three Big 12 Tournament championships. He also played in two other national title games and has advanced to nine Final Fours.
Haywood believes that the 66-year-old Williams should be mentioned with the likes of John Wooden, Adolph Rupp and Mike Krzyzewski.
Brandon Tierney wondered about Jim Calhoun, who also won three national titles. Shouldn’t he be in that top-five discussion, too?
“When you’re talking about two guys that have three titles, it’s up for interpretation,” Haywood said. “I won’t speak bad against Coach Jm Calhoun because he has three titles. When you have three titles, no one gets to say anything bad about you.”
Impressively, Williams has won, by and large, without one-and-done players.
“He’s doing it the Carolina way,” Haywood said. “He’s running that secondary break offense that Coach Dean Smith installed years ago, and he runs it to perfection. He doesn’t change it for anybody. Everybody’s talking about it’s the age of the three-point line and you need a stretch four. No, Roy does it with two traditional bigs. They dominate the paint, they play fast, they get lay-ups, they throw the ball inside – and while everybody else is trying to shoot threes, Carolina is trying to dominate the paint. That’s why they still have been able to be so successful, even though they haven’t had the same type of recruits that Kentucky and Duke have gotten in the last couple of years.
“The good thing about Carolina is they’ve gotten good enough recruits that these guys are still top players and then they got years to gel,” Haywood continued. “So instead of getting a guy that’s going to be gone in a year, you get a guy like a Justin Jackson. He gets to play three years, and his game continues to grow. . . . He doesn’t know what these guys are going to turn into or how long they’re going to stay in school. He just goes after the best guys and he thinks they’re good kids. He hopes that they come to the program and they learn from him and they continue to grow.”
Gonzaga, meanwhile, will look to rebound from a crushing title-game loss. The Zags had a chance to win but shot just 33.9 percent from the floor. Przemek Karnowski struggled mightily against Carolina, finishing with nine points on 1-of-8 shooting.
“I think he’s going to have a long professional career, but I’m not sure if it’s going to be in the NBA,” Haywood said. “He’s the prototypical European big man – a big man that can shoot, big body, can pass, not the greatest athlete in the world, but those guys plays overseas at a high level for years. But as far as the NBA, he’s very slow. We saw that he struggled with length (against Carolina). Playing in the WCC, he doesn’t see length like he saw against Carolina very often, so he’s able to do what he wants to do. In the pros, he’s going to play against athletic guys, long guys, guys that are longer and more athletic than Carolina’s guys on a nightly basis. I think he’s going to struggle. He’s kind of ground-bound, and more importantly, the league is always gameplan-specific – way more than college basketball. When teams see Karnowski check into the game, they’re going to involve him in every pick-and-roll in the middle of the floor and they’re going to make it very hard for him to play in the league. I think he’s a great kid. I love his story. I just don’t think he’s an NBA player.”