|4||1982 North Carolina|
By Matt Norlander | CBSSports.com Senior College Basketball Blogger
North Carolina has had a lot of good teams. It has had great ones. But it has never had a group as good as the one that was bailed out by a Michael Jordan shot with 17 seconds remaining in the Louisiana Superdome on March 29, 1982. Yep -- we're almost 30 years away from that night, which is seen as the blossoming of the career of the greatest player in history, as well as the win that cemented Dean Smith as one of the five best coaches in college basketball history. Until UNC won this, Smith was 0 for 6 after getting to the Final Four.
Coach: Dean Smith
Primary starters: Michael Jordan, Sam Perkins, Matt Doherty, Jimmy Black, James Worthy
NCAA tournament final result: Defeated Georgetown 63-62 to win the national title.
Best player: James Worthy. The forward who eventually handed the reigns over to M.J. It was Worthy, not Jordan, who led the team in scoring. Michael was a freshman, and the elder statesman Worthy put up 15.6 points per game that year and had 28 points on 13-of-17 shooting in the final, earning him the Most Outstanding Player award for the Final Four. Worthy is one of the guys who was so good at both levels, but not absolutely great at either, that you wonder which career was better. Similar to Patrick Ewing, you get the sense Worthy would be remembered more for his college days if he didn't play in a major market -- and win all those titles. In college, Worthy was a fledgling talent unlike most others at the time. He was an able-bodied, agile, savvy forward who could score from a lot of angles.
Another worth noting: Sleepy Sam Perkins. The crafty forward with the funny-looking shot. We're picking Perk over M.J. because everybody knows about M.J. Perkins was even more crucial to this team than No. 23. He averaged a team-high 7.8 rebounds per game and had a feel that was made for Smith's offense. Perkins was a second-team All-American in 1982 (Worthy made the first team).
This team is one of the best of all-time because ... Isn't it obvious? The collection of talent, the road of teams North Carolina had to beat to win the title (good Villanova, great Houston, great Georgetown), the legendary coach. Even if it doesn't win the title, it's considered one of the 16 best. But boy does that shot by Jordan carry a lot. Without it, Smith only has one title (1993) and is viewed a little differently. He's still considered a great coach, but maybe not top-five all-time due to the one championship. (Think how John Thompson's legacy is changed if Hoyas win in '82, then again in '84. Today's he's still considered great with one, but he's in a special club with two.) The Tar Heels are one of the first teams to make the transition to really good college basketball in the 1980s a smooth one. The way 1976 Indiana played was a lot different from how UNC, Houston, Georgetown, St. John's and others did eight to 10 years later.
Did you know ... What you probably don't realize about the 1981-82 North Carolina Tar Heels is that the roster was composed of 10 players who would go on to get drafted in the NBA from '82 to '86. So that has only happened maybe five times in the history of college hoops, and you add to that the fact this team had the greatest player in the history of the NBA, and of course it's going to be high on our list.