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THF Countdown #3: 1993

Season: 1992-93
Record: 34-4 overall, 14-2 ACC(1st place)
ACC Tournament: Lost to Georgia Tech in the finals
NCAA Tournament: Won National Championship

Roster: Dante Calabria, Scott Cherry, Larry Davis, Ed Geth, George Lynch, Eric Montross, Derrick Phelps, Brian Reese, Henrik Rodl, Kevin Salvadori, Travis Stephenson, Pat Sullivan, Matt Wenstrom, Donald Williams

Source: UNC Media Guide

The first of three great UNC teams who finished the season as national champions.

The 1993 season was full of dominant performances and some historically signature wins.  UNC won 26 games in the regular season, 24 of them were by double digits.  UNC basically crushed the ACC on their way to 14-2 in the conference winning 13 games by ten or more and in some cases completely destroying teams in the process.  The only rough patch UNC had all season was a two game skid in which UNC lost badly at Wake(three days after the FSU comeback) and then at Duke.  From that point the Heels' only bump in the road was the ACC Championship loss(sans Derrick Phelps) en route to the national championship.

In terms of signature games, the comeback versus Florida State in the Dean Dome sent a fairly clear signal that this team was special.  I referred to this game earlier in the 2008 season as a "team of destiny" win. To set the stage, UNC had just beaten 10th ranked Seton Hall and faced Florida State in Chapel Hill at 9 PM on a Wednesday night.  FSU was ranked 19th and boasted a very good team that included Sam Cassell and Bob Sura.  FSU has won both regular season games in 1992 and only a win in the ACC semifinal by the Heels avoided a three game sweep.  It was clear, at least early on in their ACC existence, the Seminoles were not to be trifled with on the basketball court and Cassell has already labeled the UNC fans at the Dean Dome the "wine and cheese crowd."

Needless to say it was annoying beyond comprehension when FSU jumped all over the Heels in the first half and broke open a 17 halftime lead.  Cassell was seen heading to the locker room wagging his tongue at the camera.  Things seeming got worse and with less than ten minutes left the Heels trailed by 19.  Dean called timeout and I recall my father saying: "This is it, they are going to try and comeback now."  And boy did they ever reeling off 15 straight points to cut the lead to four and then with the Heels trailing by one George Lynch stole a pass at midcourt and went down for the dunk to send the "wine and cheese crowd" into a frenzy.  UNC won by five but the epic nature of the game seemed to set the tone for this team despite the two losses that followed.

The run through the NCAA Tournament was equally memorable.  After dispatching ECU and Rhode Island in ways proper decorum does not permit me to discuss the Heels faced Arkansas and the ever talktative Nolan Richardson.  The Razorbacks' coach took the opportunity to make all sorts of statements in the media which UNC kindly stuffed back in his face by beating Arkansas in the Sweet Sixteen.  This set up a regional final versus Cincinnati and Nick Van Exel.  The Bearcats took a page from the FSU playbook and jumped out to a double digit lead.  The difference was, Van Excel was ridiculously hot and by the latter part of the 1st half Dean had put Derrick Phelps on the Cinncy guard.  UNC whittled the lead down and the game was tied at the end of regulation when Brian Reese blew a putback off the inbounds that could have won the game.  The OT belonged to UNC however with Donald Williams placing a nail in the Bearcat coffin with a key three to send the Heels to New Orleans.

In the Final Four it was Roy vs Dean II only this time a Tar Heel team led by an incredibly focused George Lynch took care of business to setup a rematch with Michigan.  UNC faced Michigan in the Rainbow Classic nine games into the season losing on a last second tip-in by Jalen Rose.  The title game started off poorly with the Heels falling behind but eventually they ralled and led at halftime.  In the 2nd half it was fairly nip and tuck with Michigan opening a four point lead late that was cut down to one by a Donald Williams three.  UNC took the lead up to five before the Wolverines swung the momentum back in their favor cutting it to one and fouling Pat Sullivan to send the junior to the line for a one and one.  Sullivan hit the first and then this happened:

Now way too many folks among the ABC crowd have wasted countless hours of their life attempting to delegitamize the 1993 title by saying UNC got a fluke break from Webber on the erroneous timeout.  This is obviously poppycock considering Webber traveled initially, then was trapped by UNC's two best defenders in the corner with eleven seconds left and UNC had three fouls to give.

Anyway, it was a surreal moment though.  Daddy and I were listening to Woody Durham and watching on TV.  Woody was apocletic and kept screaming "technical foul" over and over.  Daddy, being ever cautious, wanted to make sure that was the call and turned the radio off so he could hear Jim Nantz and Billy Packer describe what was happening.  This is when we heard Packer describe Webber as "such a cerebral young man" which became a running joke for years afterward between my father and me.  Donald Williams iced the game with four straight free throws and UNC won Dean's 2nd national title on the same floor he had won the first eleven years before.

On a personal level this was one of my favorite season because it was the last one before I went to college and watching UNC games have become so engrained in my relationship with Daddy.  It was also so much fun seeing them win another title and there is a lot to be said for answering Duke's two year run by bringing a trophy back to Chapel Hill.

1993 was a great team and in my mind the difference between them and the two remaining teams in the countdown is extremely small.

Countdown So Far

4. 2008
5. 1998
6. 1995
7. 1984
8. 1987
9. 1997
10. 1991
11. 2007
12. 1986
13. 1994
14. 1983
15. 1989
16. 1988
17. 1985
18. 2006
19. 2001
20. 1992
21. 1996
22. 1999
23. 2000
24. 2004
25. 1990
26. 2003
27. 2002