Sunday, March 8, 2009

Ty Game

Though the path was rocky at times, North Carolina capped off its ACC season with a win at home against Duke to give the Tar Heels the conference title that everyone expected would be theirs when the year began. Thirty games into the nation's third-toughest schedule, Carolina stands at 27-3 with the regular season ACC title under its belt, but the Tar Heels certainly do not stand alone in terms of favorites to win it all. That said, I think we've learned a lot about UNC this season. My sharpest recollection of the Tar Heels' title run in 2005 is the manner in which they dominated the competition in the ACC. North Carolina's 15 in-conference regular-season wins in '05 came by an average of 20.4 points per game. If you think about it, that's staggering. To put that number in perspective, this year's 13 wins came by an average of 14.5.

I still consider the Tar Heels to be the favorite to win it all, don't get me wrong. But there are far more threats posed to this year's team than the previous championship squad. That really speaks of the parity we currently find in college basketball. Regardless of what happens from here, though, today's game was one to remember, as always. A win against Duke is really the only fitting end to Tyler Hansbrough's career at the University. His speech after the game was moving, and proved that though he appears aloof on the court, there are some wheels turning inside that head of his. It was good to see him get a chance to share his feelings and a show that he understands of what he has meant to the program and what the program has meant to him.

But even though Hansbrough has been great and leads UNC in points and rebounds, it is Ty Lawson who would get my vote of ACC Player of the Year. The award is an MVP of sorts, usually reserved for the best player on the best team. So, it's a no-brainer that a Tar Heel will wind up with the hardware this year, given the team's success. But it's Lawson who proved himself to be the most valuable player on the team, if not in the country. I would have a hard time overlooking Blake Griffin of Oklahoma for the NCAA POY award, but I feel that Lawson has to receive strong consideration. Whether he wins the award or not, Lawson should have silenced any remaining critics this afternoon when he nearly netted a triple-double with a sprained toe.

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