Roy Williams has UNC back in the national championship

Updated: April 3, 2016
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It was Feb. 17, Michael Jordan‘s 53rd birthday, and the North Carolina Tar Heels were in a dogfight with their arch rival, the Duke Blue Devils. UNC was considered the favorite, being ranked fifth in the nation at the time, while Duke was ranked 20th and still finding itself as a team. But when those two tip off, neither rankings nor rosters matter. Why? Well, because it’s one of the biggest rivalries in sports.

With 24 seconds left in the contest, UNC pushed the ball up the floor following a Grayson Allen missed jump shot. Trailing by one point, 74-73, head coach Roy Williams opted not to call a timeout in hopes of catching Duke off guard. But, instead, they didn’t get a clean look at the basket, as Duke’s Derryck Thornton blocked a Joel Berry shot attempt as time expired.

The Blue Devils shocked UNC on the road with basically five players. Junior guard Matt Jones left the game early in the first half with an injury, and Duke played only six guys the rest of the way — one being Chase Jeter, who played just five minutes, had one rebound and scored zero points.

Williams caught heat from reporters and social media after the game for not calling a timeout to draw up a play. There were some saying he was out-coached; some saying he’d never be like Coach K; and some simply saying North Carolina won’t make it far this season. All of that because of Williams, who, by the majority of social media, was referred to as an overrated head coach.

But he apologized during his postgame press conference, and placed the blame on his shoulders. The Tar Heels were 21-5 after the loss, and many were ready to count them out — for reasons I still don’t understand.

Fast forward a month-and-a-half later, and UNC is headed to the national championship for the first time since 2009 — which was also the last year they won it all. Oh, and Williams was the head coach that season as well.

Roy is headed to his fifth national championship game, but he still gets the short end of the stick. This is a guy who has reached the Final Four eight times, has won two national titles and has been named AP coach of the year twice in his career. Even though the game Monday night against Villanova won’t be a walk in the park, Williams has his team back on the big stage and 40 minutes away from winning another title.

While UNC is loaded with talent (six McDonald’s All-Americans to be exact), it doesn’t mean making it this far is an easy task. Just ask Kentucky head coach John Calipari, who’s a recruiting genius, but teams repeatedly fall short of the ultimate goal.

By the way, just for the record, Williams has more Division I championships than Calipari, more Final Four appearances, and more AP coach of the year awards. But, nevertheless, he fails to get mentioned in the same breath as the Calipari’s, Mike Krzyzewski‘s, Tom Izzo‘s and Rick Pitino‘s. And if you take a look at their resumes, only Coack K has more Final Four appearances and national titles.

So let’s start appreciating Williams for what he’s been able to accomplish. If he’s going to be criticized when his team loses, then he should be applauded when they do well. Let’s not overlook greatness when it’s right in front of us.

Since suffering that loss to Duke, North Carolina is 12-1 and one victory away from cutting down the nets as national champs. Tar Heel fans should be thanking Brice Johnson, Marcus Paige, Justin Jackson and their talented roster for that. But they should also be thanking the head man in charge, Roy Williams.

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