Tuesday, September 27, 2022

Tar Heels, Jayhawks enter NCAA title tussle with common roots

By Dave Scaretta and Aaron Beard – Associated Press Basketball Writers

NEW ORLEANS ( Associated Press) — The story of college basketball can be traced largely from the base of Mount Orade on the Kansas campus, where the game’s inventor was also the school’s first coach, and to the heartland and down Tobacco Road to the north. Carolina, where so much of its history has been made.

Among those trained by Dr. James Naismith, who famously disposed of those peach baskets at the Springfield YMCA, was a grumpy youngster named Forrest Allen, who would later only be known by the nickname “Fog”.

Fogg Allen would later take over the Jayhawks and coach a young man from southeastern Kansas named Dean Smith, who gave him a national championship before starting his coaching career.

Smith became a legend of the Tar Heels during his tenure at Chapel Hill, leading North Carolina to a pair of national championships. And one of his disciples, Dadgum Roy Williams, would not only take the Jayhawks to four final fours, but also lead the Tar Heels to their three titles.

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Time binds the two of college basketball’s bluebloods creating a rich tapestry, and another layer arrives on Monday night when schools close for the national championships at the Superdome.

“Both teams are about as blue as you can get when you talk about the Bluebloods,” said Kansas coach Bill Self, whose Jayhawks are chasing a third national championship. Kansas is steeped in history, in large part because Coach Smith played in Kansas and won a national championship in ’52 and then moves on and is believed to be the only basketball coach to ever coach the sport. Over a period of time – I think it’s special. ,

It has its own association with the tar heels.

He was an eager young college student trying to earn money as a camp counselor in Kansas in the early 1980s when he caught the eye of the Jayhawks’ coach. It turned out to be Larry Brown, who had played for the Smiths and the Tar Heels two decades earlier before starting his own coaching career as an assistant at Chapel Hill.

“So I’m very proud to be a part of this sport,” said Self.

So is his North Carolina counterpart, Hubert Davis, who also played for Smith in the late 1980s and early ’90s. Following his own college career, and spending more than a decade in the NBA, Davis returned to North Carolina as an assistant to Williams, then was selected to take over the Tar Heels when the Hall of Fame coach retired last spring. Happened.

Davis remembers playing against Williams and the Jayhawks in the 1991 national semi-final, when he scored 9 of 16 off the ground and scored 25 points in a losing attempt. Kansas later lost to Duke in the title game.

“From 1991 to 2017, I watched that game at least once every year, before winning the national championship in 2017. It was by far the best team I played with,” Davis recalled on Sunday. “And we really felt like we had a chance to win the national championship and we came up short. And that was a game where Coach Smith got two technical fouls and he was out, and it was an emotional game and a season had an emotional end.”

Davis still believes the 79-73 loss in Indianapolis is “the hardest loss I’ve ever had in my entire life.”

“And playing at Carolina, for me, the thing that I always wanted as a player was to cut those nets,” he said, “and we were so close and not able to get that experience. Were.”

Davis eventually had that experience as an assistant coach, though never at the Jayhawks’ expense. Kansas has won four of its six meetings at the NCAA Tournament, including a second-round matchup in 2013 with Davis in his first year on the Tar Heels bench.

And then there’s Williams, who retired a year ago Friday after a Hall of Fame career. His first 15 seasons came in Kansas, along with a very famous “no thanks” when his alma mater first called him to come home in 2000.

Three years later, Williams could not disappoint Smith a second time and returned to save a program in turmoil. He spent the next 18 seasons at Chapel Hill and claimed national titles he hadn’t received during his illustrious tenure at Lawrence.

“I loved it, loved the people, loved the players, loved Alan Fieldhouse, and I wanted them to win every single game,” Williams said. “But (Monday) night is a little different.”

He has been attending UNC games throughout the season to support Davis and his former players after “working so hard” to make Davis his successor. That includes a win against Duke at the Superdome here on Saturday.

“I’ve seen people on Bourbon Street and they say ‘Rock chalk! And I would say, ‘Go KU’ because that’s my love for that school, and that will never change,” Williams said. “But it’s a different story last night, and it’s an uncomfortable one for me.

“But at the same time, the relationship between Coach Smith and me and KU and the relationship we have between those two great basketball programs is something that is very special. And Roy Williams is very happy to say that I am coaching at both schools. was able to.”

Despite their intertwined history and all the games they have played – 6,394 to be exact – Monday night will be just the 12th meeting between them. This will be the sixth postseason meeting to be held at or after the regional finals.

By comparison, the Jayhawks have played Kentucky 34 times.

The first meeting between the Tar Heels and the Jayhawks was a triple-overtime NCAA title game in 1957, with UNC defeating Wilt Chamberlain and the Kansas 54–53, capping an unbeaten season. After a painful loss to Davis in ’91, the Tar Heels won a rematch in the national semi-finals on the way to Smith’s second championship.

But the Jayhawks have won the last three meetings, all in tournaments, most notably in the 2008 Final Four all the way to Self’s lone national title.

Most players who will ultimately decide the latest performance among historical events are only aware of the past through stories and memories. Some of them weren’t even born when Williams was coaching in Kansas, let alone watching Davis play for the Tar Heels, and it’s up to their coaches to tell them the importance of the moment.

Kansas and North Carolina for the national championship.

“I’ve told them this: The best experience I’ve had as a player was going into the Final Four,” Davis said. “I told him, ‘I played 12 years in the NBA and that was my best moment as a basketball player, the best moment, just being part of the Final Four’. I was trying to tell them how special it is to be here. Now that they’re being able to experience it, it’s great.”

More Associated Press College Basketball: http://apnews.com/Collegebasketball and https://twitter.com/AP_Top25

Copyright 2022 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed without permission.

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