Gonzaga, long a basketball power, but never a national champion, came close Monday. But not close enough. In the way: the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, now six times a champion.
All the pundits were talking about redemption, after a last-second loss in last year’s title game left Tar Heelia in distress. But “redemption” seemed a bit dramatic. UNC-Chapel Hill is a perennial contender, and in the world of college basketball stays near the throne even if it doesn’t always get to wear the crown. Roy Williams, “ol’ Roy” they call him, brought his team to victory with discipline and his usual detailed preparation.
Tall as trees, the Tar Heels and the “Zags” gave the country a fitting, back-and-forth struggle with plenty of excitement along the way, and it proved a nice story within a story. Gonzaga always plays well in the tournament but has never won the championship. UNC-Chapel Hill plays well but high expectations have in the past sometimes brought deep disappointment even in what for most schools would be considered great years. “Anything short of the championship ...” begins the standard early-season punditry about the Tar Heels.
Well, this year, it wasn’t a worry.