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Sunday, March 20, 2011
Williams provides stability at UNC helm

By Dick Vitale
ESPN.com

Hey baby, the Tar Heels are back! Do you remember last year, when North Carolina had 17 Ls and the journey was NIT. That word, NIT, is not usually in the vocabulary of Hall of Famer Roy Williams.

Since his days at Kansas, and now at North Carolina, the man has understood how to build winning teams. They understand how to compete. Early this season there were some wondering about the Tar Heels when the team started 4-3, including early losses to Minnesota, Vanderbilt and Illinois. This team is well-coached and they survived a slow start.

Just ask the people what the Tar Heels did to win the ACC regular-season championship. North Carolina rallied after a 20-point loss to Georgia Tech. One key move was putting Kendall Marshall into the starting lineup. Larry Drew decided to quit and there was a little bit of a panic at that time. It all worked out and maybe the separation worked out for all parties.

Marshall has a great feel and flow for the game and he understands how to get the ball to the right people. All he did against a quality Washington team was score 13 points and dished out 14 assists! The critics will say he had four turnovers but that is better than a 3-1 ratio and any coach in America would take that.

North Carolina had just nine turnovers against the Huskies. When you factor in the pace of the game, you can understand how that is impressive.

The Tar Heels frontcourt is so special and we will see Harrison Barnes, John Henson and Tyler Zeller in NBA uniforms. Diaper dandy Barnes got off to a slow start but he has shown everybody why there was so much publicity before he ever put on that Tar Heels jersey. When he announced he was going from Des Moines, Iowa to Chapel Hill, there was joy over wearing Carolina Blue and he has been class personified. He put on a show with 40 points in the ACC tournament against Clemson. He had 22 big points against Washington, including a key trifecta with just over four minutes left.

Henson made a key block that got the Tar Heels off and running. North Carolina beat a Washington team that won the Pac-10 tournament and played well. The Tar Heels fell behind the Huskies by double figures, a trend which drove Williams crazy at the ACC tournament. North Carolina found a way to gut it out.

Zeller was a key in the post, with 25 big points. Henson, who has great length, had another double-double. The tandem of Dexter Strickland and Leslie McDonald also contributed and combined for 18 points.

North Carolina marches on to the Sweet 16, and the Tar Heels have won eight straight NCAA tournament games. Two years ago, the Tar Heels ran the table to win it all, plus two victories in this year's big dance. Remember, North Carolina has lost a lot of talent early into the NBA over the years. There has been a lot of turnover in Chapel Hill, but one thing has been stable, and the name is R-O-Y W-I-L-L-I-A-M-S! He is a Hall of Famer for a reason!