Elite 8 Showdown, Hoyas vs Tarheels

The night Michael Jordan made that shot, Roy Williams and John Thompson III were inside the Superdome, too.

They also have memories from 25 years ago - of an elusive Snickers bar and a Rottweiler that got away.

North Carolina and Georgetown play Sunday in the East Regional final, with Tyler Hansbrough, Patrick Ewing Jr. and the other players focused squarely on a trip to the Final Four.

Oddsmakers have made N Carolina -3.5 point spread favorites (College Basketball Odds) for todays game, the over/under has been set at 140 total points (View College Basketball Sports Books). Our public betting information shows that 64% of bets for this game have been placed on N Carolina -3.5 (View College Basketball Bet Percentages).

For many fans, the matchup means a lot more than the top-seeded Tar Heels' transitions vs. the second-seeded Hoyas' patience. It represents a harmonic convergence of history, harkening back to a true thriller in college basketball.

``I think you don't have to go down the list of great, great finals very long before you get to the '82 North Carolina-Georgetown game,'' Williams said.

In a game that started the legend of MJ and ushered in the era of huge crowds for championship night, Jordan's jumper from the left side with 17 seconds lifted North Carolina over Georgetown 63-62 on March 29, 1982.

``I'm very blessed for what that shot did, and my name did change from Mike to Michael,'' Jordan said this month. ``To sit back and think ``what if?'' is a scary thought. There are a lot of other options. I could be pumping gas back in Wilmington, N.C.''

Williams, now North Carolina's coach, was then an assistant to Dean Smith.

``Other than my wife and my mother, I don't know that anybody knew I was on the bench at that point,'' he said. ``I had dark black hair and it was pretty neat.''

Yet to hear him tell it, he almost was absent.

``I was a little superstitious. I kept a candy bar in my pocket before every game down the stretch and I would always buy it at the arena,'' he said. ``Believe it or not, the Superdome in New Orleans in 1982 didn't sell candy, so I went to one of the gates and I walked out, went across the street in New Orleans to buy a candy bar.

``I came back to the door and the person, the guard that was there changed and they weren't going to let me come back in,'' he said. ``My biggest memory is how doggone scared I am. I'm helping coach a team in the national championship game and I'm not even going to get into the arena.''

Thompson was a high school junior at the time, sitting across from the Georgetown bench where his father was head coach.

``I remember everything about it,'' he said. ``It's difficult to handle it because it's the national championship game.''

Then there was the family pet. His dad, John Thompson, was at the Meadowlands on Saturday and recalled that part of the story.

``I remember somebody asked my son how I took that loss. He said something like, 'I don't know about him, but I know that our dog disappeared,''' the former coach said. ``I don't know what ever happened to that damn dog.''

Thompson III said he wasn't sure that's exactly the way it went.

``Hmmm, my dad was in New Orleans, how would he know that our dog ran away that night?'' he said. ``But I don't want to contradict Pop.''

There was no dispute how much that game meant to college hoops. The matchup was full of stars - James Worthy and Sam Perkins in Carolina blue, Patrick Ewing and Eric Floyd for Georgetown. A crowd of 61,612 roared the whole way, the outcome in doubt until the final seconds when Fred Brown made an inexplicable pass to Worthy.

Ewing Jr. said his Hoyas (29-6) weren't looking to avenge that loss with a win over the Tar Heels (31-6).

``It hasn't really been a focus for me, or coach Thompson or our parents,'' he said. ``There is no Jordan on the team, no Worthys, no Perkinses. It would be good to get that win just to move on to the next round.''

Teammate Tyler Crawford also wanted to look ahead.

``We're not talking about what happened in the past,'' he said. ``We lost that game. Georgetown lost. Why would we laugh or joke about it?''

Naturally, the North Carolina players took a different approach.

``Probably saw the clip of Michael Jordan hitting the shot over 100 times,'' freshman guard Ty Lawson said. ``We see it every game at the Dean Dome. They play a little clip of that.''

The teams have split four games since that epic matchup, including Carolina's win in the 1995 NCAA tournament.

North Carolina has reached the Final Four a record 16 times, last making it on the way to the 2005 national championship. Georgetown's last appearance in the Final Four was 1985.

Thompson III hopes to improve on how he did against the Tar Heels than the last time he saw them in the NCAAs. The first time he coached in the tournament, North Carolina routed his Princeton team 70-48. That was in the opening round in 2001 - that game was at the Superdome, and his dad was in the stands.

``I think he's got a better chance this time,'' the elder Thompson said.

by: Marc Young - theSpread.com - Email Us

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