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Final, Final Four Primer: UNC And Kansas Have Been On This Championship Road Before

NEW ORLEANS – No two teams have played one another in the Final Four in the history of the NCAA Tournament more than No. 1 seed Kansas and No. 8 seed North Carolina, which tip off Monday at 9:20 p.m. eastern time in the Superdome.

Kansas (33-6) and North Carolina (29-9), which have celebrated intermingling basketball histories as well, will play for the fifth time in the national semifinals or championship game, and they are tied 2-2.

Could Tonight Be Caleb Love’s Moment For North Carolina?

North Carolina won the first one, 54-53, in three overtimes on March 23, 1957, in Kansas City, Missouri, for its first of six national championships. North Carolina coach Frank McGuire’s team was able to contain a Kansas center named Wilt Chamberlain, who scored 23 points with 14 rebounds for coach Dick Harp’s team. Joe Quigg hit two free throws with eight seconds to go in the third overtime for the Tar Heels’ win.

The game, which included no points in the second overtime (no shot clock), is detailed in a book called “The Best Game Ever” by Adam Lucas. Former North Carolina and Kansas head coach Roy Williams, who was also a junior varsity player and an assistant coach at North Carolina, wrote the book’s foreword.

Before the next season in 1957-58, former Kansas player and assistant coach Dean Smith of Emporia, Kansas, became an assistant coach at North Carolina under McGuire. He would replace him after the 1960-61 season.

On March 30, 1991, the three North Carolina head coaches – two from the future and one at that present time – were on the floor at the same time when Kansas beat North Carolina, 79-73, in the national semifinals in Indianapolis.

North Carolina guard Hubert Davis scored 25 points in defeat, and his coach, Dean Smith, was ejected after drawing his second technical foul.

“That was the toughest loss that I’ve ever experienced in my entire life,” Davis, who replaced Roy Williams as North Carolina’s head coach on April 5, 2021, said on Sunday at a national championship game press conference. “Every time I watch it, I think it’s going to turn out differently.”

Williams was the winning Kansas coach and went on to lose to Duke, 72-65, in the national championship game for Duke’s and Mike Krzyzewski’s first of five national titles. Williams left Kansas to become North Carolina’s head coach before the 2003-04 season. And present Kansas coach Bill Self replaced him at that point.

On April 3, 1993, in the Superdome here, coach Dean Smith and North Carolina beat his former assistant Roy Williams and Kansas, 78-68, as center Eric Montross scored 23 for the Tar Heels. North Carolina won Smith’s second national championship in New Orleans two nights later, 77-71, over Michigan and the Fab Five.

Self and his Jayhawks beat North Carolina and coach Williams, 84-66, in the national semifinals on April 5, 2008, in San Antonio, Texas. Self then won his first and Kansas’ third national title, 75-68, over Memphis and coach John Calipari, a former Kansas assistant, in overtime.

A year later, Williams won his second of three national championships at North Carolina.

Calipari, who left Memphis to be Kentucky’s coach after the 2008-09 season, has two blowout wins this season, by the way, over the two finalists by a combiined 47 points – 98-69 over North Carolina on Dec. 18 in Paradise, Nevada, at the CBS Sports Classic and 80-62 over Kansas in the SEC-Big 12 Showcase on Jan. 29.

NO. 8 SEED HISTORY: North Carolina is just the third No. 8 seed in NCAA Tournament history to reach the national championship game. Villanova upset No. 1 seed Georgetown, 66-64, on April 1, 1985, in Rupp Arena in Lexington, Kentucky, for the title. The other No. 8 seed was UCLA, which lost the championship game, 59-54, to Louisville on March 24, 1980, in Indianapolis.

KEY MATCHUP: North Carolina 6-foot-8 forward Leaky Black on Kansas 6-5 guard Ochai Agbaji.

“I saw a little bit of the first half Saturday, and he was going crazy,” Black, a senior from Concord, N.C., said. “I am going to have to deny him. He is a great shooter and a great player. I’ve been hearing about him all year, so it’s going to be fun.”

Agbaji, a senior from Kansas City, set a Final Four record in Kansas’ win over Villanova Saturday for three-point field goal percentage at .857 on 6-of-7 shooting. He finished with 21 points. Shelvin Mack of Butler was 5 of 6 for 83.3 percent in a 70-62 win over Virginia Commonwealth on April 2, 2011.

Agbaji leads Kansas with 18.9 points a game and is shooting .411 from three-point range (102 of 248).

“Yes, this is the moment that every kid dreams to be in – to play for a national championship for their school, to represent their school on the highest stage of basketball itself and play in front of all these people,” Agbaji said.

INJURY WATCH: North Carolina center Armando Bacot will be nursing a right ankle injury suffered Saturday in the win over Duke, but he is expected to play.

“My status is – I’m playing,” he said Sunday.“No chance I don’t play in the national championship game. My right leg would have to be cut off for me not to play.”

QUOTE OF THE DAY: “I know for me, I remember the days of watching every game in March Madness and watching the finals and raving about it with your friends about what team you picked. Now, I get to play a part in that.”

-Arizona forward David McCormack

 

 

 

 

 

Written by Glenn Guilbeau

Guilbeau has been on the LSU beat since 1998 with multiple outlets in Louisiana, prior to that he had covered both Auburn and Alabama. He won first place for his game feature on LSU's upset at Florida last season from the Football Writers Association of America (FWAA). He was also named Beat Writer of Year, by Louisiana Sports Writers Association in July; placed in three Associated Press Sports Editors (APSE) categories – Beat Writer, Explanatory, Game Coverage – last spring. Guilbeau was also the FWAA first-place winner for columns in 2017 and was also the top overall winner in 2016 FWAA placing first for his game story, second in columns, and receiving honorable mention for features.

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