Tested Tar Heels ready for Wildcats

Associated Press
North Carolina coach Roy Williams and guard Ty Lawson made the Final Four in back-to-back seasons. Lawson passed up going pro a year ago to stay in school.

DETROIT --- They're not quite who we thought they were.


North Carolina isn't exactly that group of kids who just couldn't resist banding together to take another shot at winning the national title.

Villanova isn't exactly that lovable little underdog looking for the perfect game, a la the 1985 title team led by Rollie Massimino.

They meet today in the Final Four, each a win away from playing for the national title, and each still waiting to write the final chapter on how they'll be remembered.

"There's no question it would have been a huge disappointment if we hadn't gotten back to the Final Four," Tar Heels coach Roy Williams said.

Such is life when all four NBA prospects decide to stick around another year.

But other than Tyler Hansbrough, last year's player of the year who really likes college, the return of this talented group had more to do with the realities of the NBA than with any pact they made among themselves -- say, the way Florida's players did before they won their second consecutive championship in 2007.

Wayne Ellington and Danny Green went through workouts and weren't projected as first-round draft picks. Ty Lawson got mixed feedback.

"I talked to 24 teams and every team I talked to about Ty said, 'I think he's going to be a No. 1 draft choice,'" Williams said. "But none of those teams said they were going to take him. The teams in the top 20 told me they would not. So I gave Ty and his family that information."

Oddly enough, though, instead of having to re-recruit the players, as so many coaches often do, Williams almost tried to unrecruit them. He welcomed them back -- with conditions.

"Please understand, if you decide to come back, it's not going to be about you," Williams said of his conversations with the players. "I'm not going to get you 30 shots. I'm not going to figure out how to make you the leading scorer."

The Tar Heels (32-4) are, not surprisingly, a 5-6 favorite to win the whole tournament and a 71/2-point pick over Villanova (30-7).

Yes, the Wildcats are the underdogs here in Detroit. But not THAT kind of underdog.

That 1985 team holds a special place not just in the hallways at Villanova but in the history of college basketball -- a team that injected the madness into March and made winners out of bracketologists who believed in miracles.

They played the perfect game.

This Villanova team might not have to.

"Our players believe they can win," coach Jay Wright said. "We use a term, 'We don't have to play perfect, we just have to play together.' That's how we're going to play, and our guys believe we're going to win that way."