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ESPN Ranks Top 75 Players in NCAA Tournament History

Seven Tar Heels make the cut.


This is a few days old but makes for a good discussion. ESPN assembled a panel of experts to rank who have been the best 75 players in NCAA Tournament history. The list includes seven Tar Heels with Tyler Hansbrough the highest ranked UNC player on the list at #25. Here are the UNC representatives from the list.

25. Tyler Hansbrough, North Carolina
Hansbrough was one of the hardest playing players in the history of college basketball. He never took a play off. He ran the floor consistently, pursued every rebound and played through contact. He had an insatiable desire to win and imposed his will on the game every night. He averaged 18.5 points and 8.5 rebounds in his NCAA tournament career, leading North Carolina to a national championship in 2009, as well as a Final Four (2008) and an Elite Eight (2007) appearance. --Seth Greenberg

35. James Worthy, North Carolina
Freshman Michael Jordan hit the famous shot that won Tar Heels coach Dean Smith his first national championship in 1982, but Worthy was the best player on the floor for UNC in its 63-62 win over Georgetown in the national championship game at the Louisiana Superdome. With the Hoyas leading 62-61 with 32 seconds left, Smith called a timeout to set up a play. The play was designed for the ball to be lobbed to Worthy in the paint. If he wasn't open, the ball was to go to Jordan for a jumper. The Hoyas sagged on Worthy, and Jordan hit the winner with 17 seconds to play. Georgetown still had time for another shot, but Fred Brown famously threw the ball into Worthy's hands. Worthy finished with 28 points on 13-for-17 shooting and was named the Final Four's Most Outstanding Player. -- Mark Schlabach

39. Lennie Rosenbluth, North Carolina
The All-America forward led North Carolina to an undefeated 32-0 season in 1957, scoring 20 points in a three-overtime thriller in which the Tar Heels beat Wilt Chamberlain's Kansas Jayhawks 54-53 to win UNC's first national title. At 6-foot-5, Rosenbluth wouldn't be considered a big man by today's tall standards, but he sure played big, averaging 28 points over five tournament games that season. He still holds multiple Tar Heels records and can still be found today at UNC games, urging the current Tar Heel post players to use the backboard. -- Robbi Pickeral

57. Michael Jordan, North Carolina
Michael Jordan won six NBA titles and five MVP awards, but the greatest player in basketball history often wonders what would have happened if he hadn't have made that shot back in 1982. Jordan was only 19 then, a reserve guard for North Carolina who found himself with the ball in the waning seconds of the NCAA title game against Georgetown. With his team trailing by one point, Jordan rose up from the wing and swished a jumper with 17 ticks remaining. Neither team would score again in UNC's 63-62 victory, meaning Jordan had propelled the Tar Heels to the NCAA title with one flick of the wrist. Jordan -- who won the Wooden Award two years later -- has said the shot was the taking-off point of a career that would be defined by clutch performances and championships. -- Jason King

64. Ty Lawson, North Carolina
Teammate Wayne Ellington was named MOP of the 2009 Final Four, when the Tar Heels won coach Roy Williams a second national title. But UNC might never have made it there without the speedy point guard. After missing three straight games with a toe injury that had the Tar Heel fan base monitoring his every foot twitch, Lawson scored 21 second-half points in his round of 32 return against LSU. He went on to average a team-high 20.8 points with 34 assists, 16 steals and just seven turnovers during that tournament run. He was 12-2 in the NCAA tournament for his career. -- Robbi Pickeral

68. Sean May, North Carolina
May recorded 26 points on 10-for-11 shooting and 10 rebounds in the 2005 NCAA title game to wrap up MOP honors and earn coach Roy Williams his first national title. It was a bounce-back moment for a UNC program that hadn't even made the tournament in in 2002 and 2003 under Matt Doherty, leading to the return of Williams. And it was a historic one for May -- whose father, Scott, was a star forward on Indiana's undefeated 1976 title team. Sean averaged 22.3 points in the NCAA tournament during his title season, leading to his early departure for the pros. -- Robbi Pickeral

69. Sam Perkins, North Carolina
In 1982, the smooth big man was a big piece of one of the most memorable college basketball teams ever assembled, joining James Worthy and Michael Jordan to earn Dean Smith his first national title. Perkins recorded 10 points and seven rebounds in the championship win over Georgetown -- after notching 11 points and eight rebounds against Indiana in the NCAA title game loss the year before. He averaged 15.7 points in leading the Tar Heels to a regional final in 1983. -- Robbi Pickeral

Not much argument with the included players. The two notable names left off the list for UNC were Wayne Ellington and Donald Williams, both Most Oustanding Players for national title teams. In particular, Ellington averaged 15.2 ppg in 15 NCAA games. During the 2009 title run, Ellington averaged 19.1 ppg and went 17-32 from three(53%). Obviously Lawson's 2009 numbers were slightly better and including Ellington becomes an exercise in "who do you take off?" Given Kansas' Mario Chalmers didn't even make the list, it stands to reason there are always going to be worthy players not included in a list of this nature.

That being said, considering only the NCAA Tournament games, is there an argument for Wayne Ellington's inclusion over Michael Jordan?