Your National Champions, the North Carolina Tar Heels

I'm not sure what Tom Izzo was thinking, going into this game.

If I had to guess, judging by the game we just witnessed, it's that he looked at acres of game footage, and seen a lot of teams with good game plans go up against the Tar Heels and get crushed. So he tried something different. No double-teams for Hansbrough, no attempts at slowing the pace. Just a hand in everyone's face, and a hope for a good night from his team.

It didn't work. I don't know anything that could have worked, but Hansbrough was going to get his points (6 for 14 from the field, 6 for 10 from the line), and MVP Wayne Ellington (7 for 12, 19 points) wasn't going to be denied. And no one is going to beat the Heels by coughing up 21 turnovers, including a record-setting eight steals by Ty Lawson.

UNC won this game like they've won every game this tournament, with an initial burst in the first ten minutes to build a big lead, and then a mediocre second half offensively that just nurses that lead to victory. The Heels were 10 of 27 shooting in the second half, but the defense never let up. The defense has been maligned quite a bit this season, but sometime around late January the focus shifted from rebounds and steals to solid play and good stops, and by the time the tournament came around, those rebounds and steals were back as a consequence of the play, rather than the end goal. These were the inevitable champions everyone expected back in November; it doesn't make for great television, but it's incredible basketball. 

There's no enduring image from this year like Rashad McCants lying on his back after the buzzer sounds with an ecstatic grin on his face in '05; this was always a team that turned to each other and never showed much outward emotion. But they refused to leave until they'd accomplished everything they set out to do, eclipsing all other Tar Heel champions in the margins, the efficiency, and the ruthlessness with which they dominated their opponents. It was a joy to watch as a Carolina fan and almost assuredly galling to everybody else. But hey, sometimes the underdog is given no chance for a reason, and the proclamations back in the fall are correct. This was the best team to take the court in 2009, and they earned the nets they're cutting down. You couldn't ask for a more fitting end to a great team and a great tournament performance.

So, who's up for a repeat next year?

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