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Article:Williams' Tar Heels reminiscent of national title squad

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He's doing it again.

Yep, North Carolina coach Roy Williams has apparently taken the rims off the Dean Dome baskets during recent practices.

That maneuver did not, however, help the Heels defensive effort against last-place Georgia Tech Wednesday night. UNC had to survive a potential game-winning missed shot by the Yellow Jackets for a thrilling 83-82 victory.

Good for television ratings. Probably not so good for Williams' long-term health.

Sure, UNC is 18-0 — a game better than those Patriots — and off to its best start since the 1983-84 season, but perfection hasn't been easy. Two of its three ACC wins have been heart-pounders — first, the Heels needed a last-second 3-pointer by Wayne Ellington to beat Clemson in overtime; then there was Wednesday night's episode of "Survivor."

The fortunes of this team remind me of UNC's last national championship squad in 2004-05.

Among the traits shared by both teams:

— An unbelievably fast and elusive point guard ( Raymond Felton then, Ty Lawson now).

— An extremely talented, high-scoring big man ( Sean May then, Tyler Hansbrough now).

— A sweet-shooting 2 guard with occasional no-show games ( Rashad McCants then, Ellington now).

— And, perhaps most frustrating to Williams, a defense that shows up for some games (such as Saturday's walloping of N.C. State) and isn't very effective in others.

Three seasons ago, Williams was able to get his players to buy into the fact that they couldn't win solely on their extreme amount of offensive talent. They needed to exert just as much energy on the other end, because they would run into teams that could match them on the scoreboard if they didn't.

Such was the case Wednesday against a Georgia Tech team with plenty of offensive potential, but ... well, the Yellow Jackets are now 7-9. 'Nuff said?

The Heels played hard on the defensive end at times Wednesday, but they didn't do enough to cut off the Yellow Jackets' penetration lanes, to limit their open outside looks and to keep them off the offensive boards. Georgia Tech made eight 3s and grabbed 15 offensive rebounds.

I'm sure those numbers will be a focus in the Heels' next film session and practice. And, yes, good old Roy might have the rims removed once again.

It's a great position to be in. To have a team with very few offensive issues. A team that averages 90-plus points a game.

For Roy Williams, it's a similar challenge to one he faced three seasons ago.

If he's able to succeed once again, these 2007-08 Tar Heels might just give Williams his second national title in four years.


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