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On the Heels of Success...?

By Sarah Barton

04/09/09


News Flash: North Carolina just won the NCAA Championship.


In retrospect, it's hard to say why UNC wasn't the hands down favorite to win it all. (For the record, I had them going all the way.) The Tar Heels' roster was full of talent and players with an insatiable desire to win it all, but people still had their doubts. Although UNC was never a definite favorite to take home the trophy, it was never far from the top of the list. 


At the beginning of the year, expectations for North Carolina could not have been loftier. They weren't supposed to lose. But they did lose, and to a handful of mediocre teams. They peaked early, then ended up on the back burner. So the Tar Heels flew under the radar (relatively speaking) for much of the season - minded their own business, compiled a solid record, and came together as a unit.


It was easy to keep an eye on the best three teams in the ACC while still dedicating most of the attention to the more competitive, perpetually tumultuous Big East. Further discounting North Carolina in many people's eyes was their inability to win their own conference tournament. How can you compete with the big boys when you can't even prove yourself as the best team in your league?


Oh, and there were injuries. Hansbrough was hurt early in the season. Ty Lawson, UNC's floor general, was plagued by an injured toe and missed the conference tournament and the first game of the actual tournament. When push came to shove, he stepped up and averaged 33 minutes, 20.8 points, and 6.8 assists per game in the NCAA tourney. Lawson certainly wasn't going to let an injury hamper his team's championship hopes.


All in all, the Tar Heels got it done, and left a lot of people wondering why they didn't give them more consideration. UNC's experience, coach, and drive put them in a situation to prove that they were championship material.


Now, do me a favor and read this all again, but with a few minor alterations. With the exception of the first line, when you come across "North Carolina" or "UNC," insert the word "Boston." Where you see "Tar Heels," make it "Celtics." Change "ACC" to "Eastern Conference" and make "Big East" into "Western Conference." Feel free to roughly equate Ty Lawson with KG.


Seems that the Celtics are in a similar situation to the newly-crowned NCAA champs. High expectations, a supposedly inferior conference, and nagging injuries. Given all that UNC accomplished over the course of the season, they were still considerable underdogs going into the NCAA tournament. Is Boston in that same boat? Can the Celtics ignore expectations, forget about Eastern Conference standings, and rely on injury-plagued superstars to carry the team through the playoffs?


UNC says yes. Plus, there is a bit of wiggle room for the Celtics since the NBA Playoffs are not one-and-done. North Carolina's success is in no way, shape, or form related to what happens to the Celtics over the duration of this season, but the potential similarities are there. Hopefully Boston will follow on the Heels of UNC's championship success.

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