Can it be 25 years between Carolina Blue and Maize and Blue?
The Tar Heels’ surprisingly easy win over Michigan was the first meeting between the two teams since they seemed like regular opponents in the late 1980s and early ‘90s. In fact, before UNC defeated the Wolverines in 1993 for Dean Smith’s second national championship, the schools had played four other times since 1987, all but one of those meetings taking place in the NCAA tourney.
Bill Clinton had just been elected President, there was a bombing at the World Trade Center, the latest natural disaster was a devastating tsunami, Beanie Babies were becoming all the rage and the World Wide Web was a recent invention back in 1993. Gas cost $1.16, a movie ticket was four bucks and attending Harvard was a mere $23,000 a year. Last night, UNC received $10 million to keep humming.
Over that span, Carolina has had six football coaches and three basketball coaching changes since Smith retired. Roy Williams was at Kansas in ’93, and his Jayhawks played the Tar Heels in the Final Four for the second time in three years, winning in 1991 and losing two years later before our five sent the Fab Five packing with Chris Weber’s timeout and the national championship, Dean’s second in New Orleans, by the way.
The difference between then and now was like, well, the difference between last night and Sunday, when UNC had one of its worst shooting performances in history in a blowout loss to Michigan State. Members of the 1993 team were honored while UNC was bouncing back with its best half of the current season, shooting 65 percent to build a lead that grew to 29 points, thanks to 22 straight three-point misfires by the Maize and Blue.
Luke Maye went from the sorriest game of his career to his best, dropping 27 points on a Power 5 opponent while making most of the shots he missed badly against the other school from Michigan. You knew the Tar Heels would play better – heck, they couldn’t play any worse – but you expected the Wolverines to play smarter than just firing away from outside and going more than half the game between hitting their seventh and eighth three-pointers of a night that tied the past and present together.
The five living members of the undefeated 1957 team were also introduced, and news broke that the 1967-68-69 Final Four teams will be feted 50 years after starting the Dean Smith Era that continues under Ol’ Roy. Yes, it was a weird, wonderful night.