Countdown to 2,000 wins

I’m sure you already all know that UNC is sitting at 1,999 all-time men’s basketball wins. Tonight they have the chance to break the 2,000 threshold against Miami and become only the second team to reach the mark behind Kentucky, who did so earlier this season.

Not only do I desperately want the Heels get the win tonight because it would be awesome – and I’ll be in attendance – but it is necessary now as Kansas is biting at our “heels” with 1,997 wins. The way that team is mowing down the Big 12 they should reach 2K in their conference tournament.

This season has been rocky enough, but after coming into this season 2nd all-time in wins with Kentucky marginally ahead and Kansas comfortably behind, Carolina has reeled off 14 loses and the gap has obviously closed with Kansas only two behind and opened with Kentucky sitting around 2,016 now.

Think of what the haters will say if Roy’s former school comes from behind in an already disappointing season to get to that 2,000 mark first. I can’t imagine. At least Dook isn’t threatening yet.

On a higher note, the N&O put together a nice list of UNC’s most important wins, which I am recounting here:

1. 1957 NCAA championship

UNC 54, Kansas 53 (3 OT)

Kansas City, March 23, 1957

The game that officially made Carolina a national basketball brand. It came one night after a triple-overtime escape against Michigan State in what many experts still rate as the best Final Four ever. Kansas was led by Wilt Chamberlain and had routed powerful two-time national champion San Francisco in the semifinals.

With All-American Lennie Rosenbluth having fouled out, the Tar Heels rallied behind fellow forward Pete Brennan, center Joe Quigg and guards Tommy Kearns and Bob Cunningham to finish their season 32-0. Chamberlain, in his final college game, had 23 points and 14 rebounds.

2. 1982 NCAA championship

UNC 63, Georgetown 62

New Orleans, March 29, 1982

Having reached the Final Four six previous times, including a stinging championship game loss to Indiana in 1981, Dean Smith and the Tar Heels were under immense pressure to win a title.

It all came together in a matter of seconds when freshman Michael Jordan hit a winning jump shot and forward James Worthy got a surprise pass from Hoyas guard Fred Brown on the ensuing possession. Jimmy Black, Sam Perkins and Matt Doherty were the other key players on a 32-2 team.

3. 2005 NCAA championship

UNC 75, Illinois 70

St. Louis, April 4, 2005

By the time Roy Williams coached a team to his first national championship, the Tar Heels had sunk lower than anyone could have imagined. The 8-20 record in the 2001-02 season even led to some belief that the program could never recover its national clout of old.

That changed when often-injured center Sean May joined guards Raymond Felton and Rashad McCants to provide the team with a three-pronged offensive attack that Big Ten defensive majors Michigan State and Illinois could not contain.

4. 1993 NCAA championship

UNC 77, Michigan 71

New Orleans, April 5, 1993

Dean Smith’s triumphant return to the Superdome came under much less pressure than the 1982 championship. The Final Four field, which included Williams’ Kansas team and Kentucky, was such that there wasn’t a clear-cut favorite.

The Tar Heels rode the shooting of guard Donald Williams and a deep roster to the championship but got an assist when Michigan star Chris Webber called a late timeout that the Wolverines didn’t have left.

5. 2009 NCAA championship

UNC 89, Michigan St. 72

Detroit, April 6, 2009

Maybe the most offensively prolific team in NCAA Tournament history breezed to the championship once playmaker Ty Lawson gutted out a second-round win over LSU in Greensboro.

Faced with the impossible challenge of stopping Lawson, Tyler Hansbrough, Wayne Ellington and Danny Green, Michigan State yet again had to watch the Heels leave a Final Four with a title.

6. 1967 ACC championship

UNC 82, Duke 73

Greensboro, March 11, 1967

This was the game in which Dean Smith finally won the complete respect and commitment of Carolina’s once reluctant – even hostile – fans.

After Smith went 66-47 during his first five seasons, his 1966-67 team won the ACC title and a NCAA trip with successive wins over N.C. State, Wake Forest and the Blue Devils en route to a 26-6 record and the first of three straight Final Four trips. Star wing Larry Miller had 32 points, and teammate Bob Lewis added 26 to help Carolina overcome a Duke team led by All-American guard Bob Verga.

7. 1975 ACC championship

UNC 70, N.C. State 66

Greensboro, March 8, 1975

In David Thompson’s final college game, Phil Ford brought the Tar Heels out of a long period of Wolfpack domination that some thought had signaled the decline of Dean Smith’s program. In 1973 and ’74, very good Carolina teams were forced to settle for the NIT while State and Maryland played for the league title and the NCAA bid.

With Thompson injured and limited to 16 points, Ford dominated with 24 points and won the tournament MVP award as a freshman.

8. 1997 NCAA second round

UNC 73, Colorado 56

Winston-Salem, March 15, 1997

Technically, the game was much like hundreds of other Carolina wins during the Dean Smith era. But this was the one that moved him past Kentucky’s Adolph Rupp on the all-time victory list.

Smith’s 877th Carolina win would be followed by California and Louisville en route to one last Final Four. He shocked everyone by retiring shortly before the outset of the 1997-98 season, turning the job over to longtime assistant Bill Guthridge.

9. 2004-05 regular season

UNC 75, Duke 73

Chapel Hill, March 6, 2005

After going 0-3 against Duke’s Mike Krzyzewski after taking the Carolina job, Roy Williams broke through in the series with a dramatic win. Carolina was ranked No. 2 nationally and Duke No. 6.

Sean May, with 26 points, 24 rebounds and three assists, made what turned out to be his final home game memorable.

10. 1982 Final Four

Carolina 68, Houston 63

New Orleans, March 27, 1982

Much like the 1957 triple-overtime national semifinal escape against Michigan State, the ’82 win over Houston often gets overlooked.

But against a Cougars team that included Clyde Drexler, Akeem Olajuwon, Lynden Rose and Larry Micheaux, North Carolina needed one of Sam Perkins’ best games ever- 25 points and 10 rebounds – to reach the Monday final against Georgetown.