North Carolina beat Gonzaga, 71-65, in the national championship Monday night, and two things are certain: one, the officiating wasn’t great, and two, Roy Williams is.
“Listen, when there’s 44 fouls called in a 40-minute game – 44 fouls and 46 field goals – I don’t know that it’s a problem because I’m sort of a believer in ‘If it’s a foul, blow your whistle,’” CBS Sports college basketball analyst Gary Parrish said on CBS Sports Radio’s The Doug Gottlieb Show. “But it does mess up the rhythm of a game. I’m not a basketball player, but every basketball player I’ve ever talked to suggests that it’s difficult to get into a rhythm when you’re start, stopping, start, stopping, start, stopping. My bigger complaint would be the missed calls. Kennedy Meeks was out of bounds. You can’t miss that – not on this stage, not with these stakes. There was an air-ball that goes out of bounds. It should have been North Carolina’s ball. The officials decide that it was tipped, eve though the replays showed it wasn’t tipped. North Carolina wins anyway, but if Gonzaga would have won, that would have been a key sequence there. I just think it’s hard to argue that it was a good night for the officials.”
Williams, meanwhile, improved to 3-2 in national championships, with both losses coming at the buzzer – one with Kansas and one with North Carolina.
“These three titles could be five,” Parrish said. “And then you add into that how often has he had the best team in the country? Is he batting perfectly in terms of making contact every time he’s got a team to win a national championship? Probably not, but I would argue nobody does. I just would go by the facts. He’s one of only six men to win at least three national titles.”
The other five are John Wooden (11), Mike Krzyzewski (five), Adolph Rupp (four), Jim Calhoun (three) and Bob Knight (three).
That’s not bad company.
“I know in 2005 he did it with overwhelming talent,” Parrish said of Williams. “In 2009, he did it with overwhelming talent. Last night, I think, was a little different. Unlike the first two championships, this team got zero first-place votes in the preseason AP poll and was never ranked No. 1 in the country at any point in this season. The past four recruiting classes at Carolina, because of the academic scandal sort of hovering over the program, have ranked outside of the top five – not in the country, but in the ACC. I know he had a bunch of McDonald’s All-Americans, but how many pros? Three, maybe? Maybe three? So to be able to win a championship last night, I think, does enhance his reputation because he didn’t just win it with overwhelming talent. This is about a team that he coached and that he developed. Joel Berry got better, Justin Jackson got better, Kennedy Meeks got better – and last night is the byproduct of that.”
Gonzaga, meanwhile, is left wondering what could have been. Will Mark Few and the Zags get back to the national championship again?
“They can, clearly, but everybody always thinks you’ll get back to that moment,” Parrish said. “Sometimes it just never happens. Not only do you have to be really, really good to get to a Final Four; you have to be pretty lucky. Look at Carolina’s path. They had to scrap to get out of a Round of 32 game with Arkansas. They needed a Luke Maye jumper to get out of the Elite Eight against Kentucky. They needed to offensive rebound two balls in the final seconds just to prevent Oregon from having an opportunity to do to them what Kris Jenkins did to them. Carolina is a worthy national champion. I’m not saying they lucked into it, but they were fortunate along the way. What if Joel Berry’s ankle is a little bit worse than what it actually was? We could be talking about different things.
“So I think Mark has built one of the most consistent really good programs in America, but it’s got to really click for you to get back to that stage,” Parrish continued. “Nobody has balance in life in terms of college coaching better than Mark Few. Maybe some have it similarly, but none better. And still, this is going to eat at him forever because the truth is, with 1:45 to go, he had more points than the other guy. With 1:45 to go, they were ahead. They were right there. And then if just one shot goes in one end and doesn’t go in on the other end – he’ll play that final 1:45 for the rest of his life. If you could hit reset and just do it again from there, he’d win it a few times.”