The 2022 NCAA National Championships have again produced some exciting and enticing encounters in the college basketball Regional’s, and after already seeing some great match ups, history will again be made in the Final Four.
Following North Carolina’s 20 point victory over Saint Peter’s, who saw their Cinderella run so far brought to an end, the national semi-final is now set for a meeting between rivals as The Tar Heels now meet Duke in the next stage, with head coach Hubert Davis already knowing he becomes only the second coach in history to make a Final Four as a player and coach in a Final Four with their alma mater. You’d have received great odds on the chance of that happening from the likes of Betway ahead of the tournament.
Rivals meeting at this stage, or in the final itself, are incredibly rare but they do happen on occasion and for the history buffs amongst you, ESPN have a great breakdown on other past historical meetings.
There’s no denying few college athletes get to savour and experience a NCAA National Championship Final, and even fewer get to taste a Final as outright winners but one former NBA star did.
Thurl Bailey recently took a trip down nostalgia lane to NC State’s Cinderella run back in 1983 under coach Jim Valvano. With Kansas and Villanova completing the bracket, everyone in each of those teams will be hoping to replicate Bailey’s prior success and make history of their own after the trials and tribulations of March Madness.
“I think what made those moments special were the things that had come before that, and the things that came after. The things that came before, in hindsight, there’s two Hall of Famers in that championship game – Clyde Drexler, Hakeem Olajuwon. Two of the greatest players that ever played the game. There’s an unknown coach that comes into ACC basketball, and not a lot of these coaches like him. Dean Smith wasn’t fond of Jim Valvano, and initially, Mike Krzyzewski wasn’t either. But as I look at some of the things that made it special, it was some of the not so happy things that happened. Dereck Whittenburg breaks his foot against Virginia, and in our minds, we’re thinking we can’t win consistently without one of our star players. But what happens? Other guys step up, and they mature, and Dereck Whittenburg comes back. And then we’re a better team for it.” He told Betway Insider.
Bailey knows that with the benefit of hindsight, it wasn’t just NC State’s win – it was a win for the game as lower seeded teams saw what could be achieved, and in turn that gave them belief to push on improve further. “I think it really gave lower seeded teams belief. We are that point that you go to – NC State did it, well why can’t we? Villanova did it the year after and there are other teams that have come up and gotten into the tournament that have never been there.”
There’s also a certain sense of poetic justice that Villanova are back again this time after Bailey’s reference to them and belief. “It starts at the top. It starts with your leader. If your leader cares, if your leader knows you well, each individual personally, then that leader is able to communicate what they want from you and out of you. He doesn’t just throw us out on the court, he cares about us off the court. He inspires the seniors to be leaders when he’s not around, and we had a really close-knit team that trusted each other. We brought that onto the court. I think with those games, it could have been over at any moment. So why not just fight till the end? There are some things you can control and some things you can’t, what you can control is leaving it all out there on the floor. People say you earn your own luck. There was also a spiritual part, for me anyway. We were just the chosen team, we were the team that that was going to make their mark that year, and it was going to come from a different place than it normally came.”
Carpe diem indeed. Who will seize the initiative on the weekend beginning April 2nd?
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