|15||1957 North Carolina|
By Jeff Borzello | CBSSports.com Basketball Blogger
Surviving. That's the best way to describe North Carolina's 1957 season, especially in the NCAA tournament. The Tar Heels had two triple-overtime games in the Final Four that season, beating Michigan State and Kansas. In order to survive against the Spartans, they needed a last-second shot from Pete Brennan just to stay alive in the first overtime. Against Kansas, head coach Frank McGuire sent out 5-foot-11 Tommy Kearns to take the opening tip against Wilt Chamberlain, who stood 13 inches taller. Despite having a smaller lineup, North Carolina held Chamberlain to just two points in the final 10 minutes and went on to win 54-53.
Coach: Frank McGuire
Primary starters: Lennie Rosenbluth, Pete Brennan, Tommy Kearns, Joe Quigg, Bob Cunningham
NCAA Tournament final result: Defeated Kansas 54-53 in triple overtime to win the national title.
Best player: Lennie Rosenbluth. The 6-foot-5 forward averaged 27.9 points and 8.6 rebounds during the regular season, winning at least one Player of the Year award over Kansas' Wilt Chamberlain. Rosenbluth set North Carolina records for points in a season, both total and average, and was the first player to be named National Player of the Year, ACC Player of the Year, ACC Tournament MVP and NCAA regional MVP in the same season. Despite fouling out in the national title game, he still managed to reach 20 points, just 24 hours after scoring 29 against Michigan State.
Another worth noting: Pete Brennan. Also getting named to the All-Tournament team was Brennan, who went for 25 points and 28 rebounds in the two three-overtime games. The 6-foot-6 junior helped the Tar Heels outrebound Kansas in the national title game, and nabbed double-doubles in both Final Four games. A year later, Brennan took the reins from Rosenbluth and was named ACC Player of the Year.
This team is one of the best of all-time because ... The 1957 Tar Heels proved they could win in nearly every way imaginable. They dominated throughout the regular season, winning 22 games by nine points or more, but they also had four overtime wins. North Carolina won both Final Four games in triple overtime, including the championship game against Wilt Chamberlain and Kansas when leading scorer Lonnie Rosenbluth fouled out. Frank McGuire took his roster made up primarily of New York City kids and tested them on a nightly basis. They played just eight home games on the season, winning nearly as many games in Raleigh as it did in Chapel Hill. This version of North Carolina was simply tougher and grittier than most of the other elite teams from that era, overcoming plenty of roadblocks en route to an undefeated season. Moreover, the 1957 North Carolina team had a clear impact on college basketball going forward. The NCAA title game was one of the greatest ever, and the Tar Heels and the ACC as a whole became more dominant going forward.
Did you know ... After coming up with a strategy to slow down Wilt Chamberlain in the national championship, Frank McGuire ended up coaching the Hall of Fame big man in the NBA. In fact, McGuire was Chamberlain's coach when he scored 100 points just five years later. The highs and lows of Chamberlain's career, both highlighted by McGuire.