Picking North Carolina's All-Time Final Four Team
This season marks North Carolina’s 21st trip to the Final Four, the most of any college basketball program. The Tar Heels have 17 wins at the Final Four, which includes their 6 national championships and 11 NCAA Championship Game appearances. Given that remarkable legacy of success, picking North Carolina’s All-Time Final Four Team is a little bit like asking a mother of two to pick her favorite kid or asking Al Pacino to choose between The Godfather and The Godfather: Part II. There are no right answers.
Here at Saturday Road, we like the impossible, which is why we’re happy to debate whether Die Hard is a Christmas movie (it is) or whether Dream Team II would have beaten Dream Team I (they would have, trust Shaq).
Here goes nothing: the all-UNC Final Four team.
Remember, only Tar Heels who actually played in a Final Four game are eligible. That not only eliminates a handful of stars from the one-and-done era, but, in the event a UNC great played only 1 or 2 Final Four games, and it didn’t go well — it also means some players you’d think would make the list aren’t here. Even a program legend, like Phil Ford.
Of course, you’d still basically beat anyone you wanted save perhaps UCLA with the following 15 players.
Hubert Davis, Guard: The Tar Heels’ head coach played in just 1 Final Four game, a heartbreaking loss to Kansas at the 1991 Final Four in the old Hoosier Dome in Indianapolis. Had the Heels won, they would have faced Duke in the NCAA title game. Davis left it all on the floor, scoring 25 points and grabbing 5 rebounds to keep the Tar Heels in the game until the end.
Eric Montross, Center: Montross was a monster, and given the fact his Dad played at Michigan, Big Grits dominating the Final Four in 1993 made perfect sense. Big Grits averaged 19.5 points and 6 boards over 2 games at the 1993 Final Four, helping Dean Smith win his 2nd and final national championship. He added 6 points, 3 rebounds and a block in his lone Final Four game as a freshman as well, just for good measure.
James Worthy, Forward: Worthy is a program legend whose jersey hangs from the Dean Dome rafters. But remember, this is a Final Four list. Worthy went 3-1 in the Final Four, but he didn’t play particularly well in 1981. Bygones. He dominated the 1982 Final Four. Yes, his famous teammate made the jumper to beat Georgetown and give Dean Smith his first title, but Worthy scored a game-high 28 points on 13-of-17 shooting and was named the Final Four MVP.
Rashad McCants, Guard: The long and elusive McCants poured in 15.5 points per game in helping Roy Williams win a national championship in just his second season in Chapel Hill. McCants added 3.5 rebounds and 2.5 assists per game for good measure, and was more than happy to be a role player surrounded by bigger, more headline-grabbing stars.
Vince Carter, Guard: The Carolina great dropped 21 points on 10-of-16 shooting, added 7 rebounds and tallied 3 blocks in the Tar Heels’ loss to Utah at the 1998 Final Four. Carter also had 21 points, 6 rebounds and 4 steals in Dean Smith’s last Final Four game, a 66-58 loss to Arizona in 1997. Carter went 0-2 at the Final Four, but he earned this spot.
Wayne Ellington, Guard: Ellington, like teammate Tyler Hansbrough, had been one of the only Carolina players who played well in the 2008 Final Four. Ellington scored 18 points in North Carolina’s loss to Kansas in the national semifinal in 2008, adding 6 rebounds and 3 steals. A year later, Ellington was even better. He was a force of nature at the 2009 Final Four, even if he was overshadowed a bit by Hansbrough and Ty Lawson, the 2009 ACC Player of the Year. In 2 games, Ellington scored 19.5 points per game and collected 6.5 rebounds and 3 assists. He was named the NCAA Tournament’s Most Outstanding Player shortly after he finished his career listening to “One Shining Moment.”
Raymond Felton, Point Guard: Felton was a top-5 pick who went on to a 14-year career in the NBA, but before all that happened, he was an All-American point guard who played some of the best basketball of his career at the Final Four in 2005. In 2 games, Felton scored 16.5 points per game, dished out 7 assists a game, grabbed 6 rebounds per contest and collected 3 steals. Without Felton, the 2005 Tar Heels aren’t national champions. With him, they became Roy Williams’ first national champion.
Tyler Hansbrough, Forward: The Tar Heels legend was one of the few in Carolina blue who came to play at the 2008 Final Four, dropping 17 points and collecting 9 rebounds and 2 steals in a lopsided loss to Arizona. A year later, Hansbrough became the first — and still the only one this century — reigning National Player of the Year to return to school. He brought 3 of his closest buddies with him in Wayne Ellington, Ty Lawson, and Danny Green, and the core of what would become one of the greatest college basketball teams of all time was born. They cemented their legacy by obliterating Villanova and Michigan State at the Final Four, with Psycho T averaging 18 points, 9 rebounds, and 3 steals a game in the process. At any other place but North Carolina, Hansbrough is First Team without batting an eyelash. But when you’ve been to 21 Final Fours …
Al Wood, Forward: The star of Dean Smith’s 1980-1981 team that fell to Indiana in the national championship, Wood had an absolutely blistering Final Four, highlighted by a 39-point bombing of Virginia in the national semifinal. Wood wasn’t even doing this on high volume: He shot a ruthlessly efficient 14-of-19 from the field against the Cavs and was on his way to another huge game in the championship before he got into foul trouble. With Wood on the bench, Indiana pulled away, but not before the senior All-American scored 18 points to finish his lone Final Four averaging 28.5 per contest.
Donald Williams, Guard: Williams was magnificent at the 1993 Final Four — the biggest reason the Tar Heels took home the championship. The NCAA Tournament MVP, Williams saved his best for last, scoring 50 points over 2 games at the Final Four and making 10-of-14 3-point attempts. No, that isn’t a typo. Dude made 10-of-14 3-point attempts in games played at the Superdome, where every college basketball player on earth who isn’t Donald Williams would tell you it is almost impossible to shoot because of the expansive background. Just ridiculous stuff.
Sam Perkins, Forward: Big Smooth played in 4 games at the Final Four, going 3-1 in those contests. Many people incorrectly credit another UNC icon for making Dean Smith rethink his position on playing freshman, but the reality it was Perkins who changed the Dean’s tune. As a freshman, Perkins helped UNC slow Ralph Sampson inside and advance to the championship, where they lost to Bobby Knight’s Hoosiers. Perkins averaged 11 points and 8.5 rebounds at that Final Four. A year later, the Tar Heels cut down the nets, and Perkins was sensational. He posted a double-double with 25 points and 10 rebounds in the Final Four win over Houston’s Phi Slamma Jamma, and then added 10 points and 7 rebounds in the championship victory over Georgetown. Perkins would not return to the Final Four in his career, but he would win a gold medal at the 1984 Olympics and be named a First Team All-American twice.
Lennie Rosenbluth, Forward: Lennie liked to shoot. He took 43 shots against Michigan State in the 1957 Final Four, and while he only made 12, he ended up at the free throw line several times and scored 31 points in the Tar Heels’ win. Rosenbluth was a far more efficient 8-15 in the championship game, scoring 20 points as Frank McGuire’s invincibles toppled Wilt Chamberlain and Kansas to cap a 32-0 season. Rosenbluth was named the Final Four’s Most Outstanding Player.
Sean May, Center: The Most Outstanding Player at the 2005 NCAA Tournament, May remains the only Tar Heel in history to post a double-double in the national championship game, which he accomplished with 26 and 10 in North Carolina’s rout of Michigan State in the championship game. In 2 games at the Final Four, May averaged 24 points, 8.5 rebounds, dished out 2 assists a game and led the Final Four in fouls drawn. The big man was a problem and there was no solution for North Carolina opponents, helping Roy Williams win his first national championship in Chapel Hill.
Ty Lawson, Point Guard: Over a decade later, Lawson remains the Final Four’s all-time leader in steals at a single Final Four, having collected an absurd 10 swipes over 2 games at the 2009 Final Four. Lawson approached triple-double territory in North Carolina’s win over Villanova in the semifinals, scoring 22 points, adding 8 assists and tallying 7 rebounds. He was even better in the national championship game. Lawson hounded the Spartans into submission, tallying 8 steals (a single-game Final Four record) to go along with 21 points and 7 assists. The 2009 ACC Player of the Year, Lawson was named to the All-Tournament team and made his decision to return to school look brilliant as the floor general for one of the best college basketball teams to ever play.
Michael Jordan, Guard: His Airness played Robin to Sam Perkins’s Batman in the semifinals against Houston, scoring 18 points and adding 5 rebounds while playing tremendous defense on future Dream Team mate Clyde Drexler all evening. It was in the final, however, when Jordan became a household name, and not because of his 16 points and 9 rebounds, but because he made this shot:
The rest, as they say, is history.