NEW ORLEANS -- Next April, they'll hold the Final Four in Charlotte, N.C., just down Tobacco Road from Chapel Hill. Dean Smith probably wishes the NCCA basketball championship could be right back in Louisiana.
Smith captured his second NCAA basketball championship in the Louisiana Superdome Monday night. Eleven years ago, Smith won his first crown in the same building under the similar circumstances of an opposing player making a monumental error at the end. Who's says the Dean Dome -- as the Smith Center is nicknamed -- is in North Carolina?
The Tar Heels' stunning 77-71 victory over Michigan Monday night was sealed when Wolverines forward Chris Webber was assessed a technical foul with 11 seconds to go for calling a timeout his team didn't have. Smith's first title in 1982 came when Georgetown's Fred Brown passed the ball back to Carolina in the waning seconds.
Next season, the Tar Heels may not need to rely on any ghosts of titles past or voodoo to win the 1994 national championship.
Carolina will lose only one starter -- George Lynch -- from this year's squad and will enter next season as an odds-on favorite to win back-to- back NCAA titles.
Seven-foot center Eric Montross came into his own in the tournament, shooting better than 70 percent from the floor, and his continued improvement will only make the Tar Heels that much stronger.
Swingman Brian Reese and point guard Derrick Phelps, the nation's premier defensive guard, will give Smith's team experience and superior athleticism. And sophomore guard Donald Williams proved Monday night that he is North Carolina's budding superstar.
Williams was named the Most Outstanding Player of the tournament after scoring 25 points, including 12 in the final 7:37 against Michigan.
The performance concluded a four-game run in the tournament in which he scored 22 against Arkansas, 20 against Cincinnati and 25 against Kansas and Michigan each. Against Michigan, he made five of seven 3- point shots.
'Donald has played like this all year,' said Phelps, 'but in the tournament he really stepped up. His biggest thing is he hits those threes when we really need them.'
Lynch's departure will leave a void in terms of leadership and statistics for North Carolina. Lynch, who some think may be one of the top 10 picks in the NBA Draft, finished his career as the school's all- time steals leader. He's also only the second player in ACC history to score 1,500 points, grab 1,000 rebounds, hand out 200 assists and make 200 steals, joining Duke's Christian Laettner.
As he has always manages to do, Smith has recruited another blue-chip class to wear Carolina blue next season. Remember these names: Jerry Stackhouse and Jeff McInnis.
The two led Oak Hill Academy in Mouth of Wilson, Va., to a 36-0 record and the mythical high school national title this seaon, and both are expected to make immediate an impact at North Carolina. Stackhouse, a 6-foot-6 forward, was named MVP of last weekend's McDonald's All- America game. The Tar Heels also are in the hunt for unsigned Rasheed Wallace, a 6-10 center from Philadelphia, who is considered the nation's premier center.
Michigan, on the other hand, whose players walked zombie-like from the Superdome Monday night, may have seen the last game played by its heralded Fab Five.
Webber, who scored 23 points and grabbed 11 rebounds before making his costly mental mistake, was thought to be bound for the NBA before the Final Four. However, he could decide to stay after coming so close to winning the national championship for the second straight year.
Wolverines guard Jalen Rose was also thought to be leaning toward a pro career, and he and Webber have said that they would probably make their decision together. Their departures would leave behind a legacy of a great team that was unable to win the big game.
Even if Webber and Rose decide to leave, the Wolverines have the nucleus for a strong teamin Juwan Howard, Jimmy King and Ray Jackson. Michigan also signed high school All-America Bobby Crawford from Houston.
It was too hard, though, for the Wolverines or Coach Steve Fisher to look ahead Monday night.
'It hurts,' said Rose. 'We've got to keep focused and believe that, eventually, we're going to get that ring.'
Pressed on the possibility of his return, Rose said: 'You never know what tomorrow might bring.'
'I don't remember,' Webber said. 'I just called a timeout and we didn't have a timeout. That probably cost us the game. ... I cost our team the game.'
Michigan's Juwan Howard defended his teammate and fellow member of Michigan's 'Fab Five' sophomore class.
'All these questions being asked, it's stupid,' Howard. 'He should hold his head up proud. It hurts to lose two national title games in a row.'
Montross got free for a dunk with 1:01 left, and the Carolina faithful erupted thinking they might have this one sealed. But Ray Jackson hit a jumper to pull Michigan within a 72-69 with 47 seconds to go. On the ensuing inbounds play Michigan got the ball back when Brian Resse stepped on the sideline.
Webber then grabbed a miss underneath and scored to make it 72-71 and the Wolverines sent Sullivan to the line for his 1-and-1.
When Webber was whisteled for the technical foul several Michigan players threw themselves to the court in disbelif and half of the chairs on the bench were kicked over.
Smith said the Tar Heels deserve credit for battling back.
'We were fortuante to win the basketball game,' Smith said. 'I think you have to hand it to our players for our competitive spirit coming from behind to win against such a good team.'
The Tar Heels had built a 70-67 lead with 2:09 left when Lynch scored from eight feet just as the 45-second clock was about to expire.
King nailed a fade-away jumper from the left side with 4:14 remaining to give the Wolverines their final lead of the game at 67-66.
King's steal and moster slam with 10:10 left tied the score at 56-56 and the teams traded leads before Williams, whose outside shooting brought the Tar Heels to the Final Four, hit his fourth 3-pointer to give the Tar Heels a 61-60 lead with 7:39 to go.
The Tar Heels opened the second half by pounding the ball inside to Montross and Carolina went up 48-40 when Montross went over Webber to drop a bank shot with 17:51 left.
The first half ended with North Carolina leading 42-36, following a rugged 20 minutes of strong interior defense and impressive scoring runs by both teams.The Wolverines were the ones who looked tight in the opening minutes as Carolina jumped to a 9-4 lead before the first television timeout with 15:30 left in the half.
Sensing his team needed a lift, Michigan Coach Steve Fisher inserted senior Rob Pelinka, a member of the Wolverines' 1989 championship team, who quickly drained a 3-pointer -- Michigan's first in two games -- the first time he touched the ball. Following another Carolina miss, Pelinka again sank a 3-pointer from the corner and the Wolverines suddenly looked like a new team.
After two more Tar Heels misses Rose drilled a 3-pointer from the wing and consecutive 3-point plays by Webber and Howard gave Michigan a 21-13 lead and the Wolverines sensed the kill.
But the Tar Heels, showing tremendous poise and using their deep bench, wasted no time in answering. They reeled off a 12-4 run, capped by Williams' 3-pointer from the corner with 8:01 left that knotted the score at 25-25.
Both teams turned up their defensive pressure in the closing minutes of the half with the Tar Heels able to open their 6-point lead on two free throws by Montross and a 3-pointer by Wiliams in the final 1:47.
Montross led the Tar Heels with 9 point in the half and Lynch added 8 and six rebounds. Webber paced the Wolverines with 9 first-half points and Jimmy King added 7 points and six rebounds.