Roles Reversed After 10 Years: Wisconsin vs North Carolina NCAA Tournament Rematch


Alando Tucker, Kammron Taylor, Mike Wilkinson, Sharif Chambliss, Clayton Hanson and Zach Morley, or in other words, the last Wisconsin Badgers men’s basketball team with significant minutes against a Roy Williams North Carolina team in the NCAA Tournament.

If Wisconsin vs North Carolina in 2005 is any indicator on how Wisconsin vs North Carolina in 2015 will play out, Badgers fans can look forward to seeing net and scissors in the hands of Bo Ryan very soon.

In 2005, Wisconsin was a No. 6 seed and just came off wins against Northern Iowa, Buckenll and NC State, while No. 1 UNC upended Oakland, Iowa State and Villanova before meeting the Badgers in Syracuse.

Each team was riding pretty high, but there was one clear favorite and one clear underdog.

The same applies to Thursday’s Sweet 16, which will be almost 10 years to the day of Wisconsin’s 88-82 loss, with the Badgers playing the favorite and UNC needing tough wins over Harvard and Arkansas to play underdog.

Tucker put up a valiant effort 10 years ago, leading all Wisconsin scorers with 25 points. Wilkinson played all but one minute of the game and added 11 while Hanson added 15. The team was fairly tall, but it was one of the first times I saw a Bo Ryan team really let loose and be active in scoring over defense – a style that seemed to go dormant for close to eight years.

The Badgers went on an 11-0 run before the half to tie the game at 44-44, which left many people wondering if Roy Williams was going to be the Sergio Garcia of NCAA coaches, but UNC roared back to a lead and didn’t give it back up, Wisconsin got close, but UNC was UNC on the path to a national title.

Now it is time for the Badgers to be bold and a big bad No. 1 on the path to a national title.

Rashad McCants was the player to beat 10 years ago. He hit big 3-pointer after Alando Tucker got an alley-oop to bring the Badgers within a few before the final minute. I can see the same thing happening this year.

I can see the Badgers leading by seven or nine points with five minutes before the end of the first half, but then play into a four minute scoring slump and let UNC right back into the game, maybe even with the Tar Heels taking a slim lead.

But then Bo Ryan rallies the troops, semi-shames Sam Dekker to light a fire, and the Badgers run out of halftime for a good 20-5 run for another big lead.

Future NBAer Frank Kaminsky seeks another Final Four. Jasen Vinlove-USA TODAY Sports

Roy Williams had a whole host of talent in 2005 – McCants, Sean May, Raymond Felton, Marvin Williams – doing everything they could to win a title for their coach who spent decades in search of it.

May ended with 29 points and was over 68 percent from the field. McCants added 21, Felton 17. UNC also had eight players with at least 15 minutes on the court, while Wisconsin lasted the whole game with six guys with at least 20 minutes – and a huge dropoff after that.

UNC was fresh, answered scores, defend against small and fast teams, answered rallies and shut crowds out for prime position in a championship run. A few games after beating Wisconsin, UNC beat Illinois and cut the nets down.

Now Wisconsin shows that same drive.

Frank Kaminsky, Dekker, Nigel Hayes, Josh Gasser, Traevon Jackson and now Bronson Koenig have all proven to be formidable opponents, all playing their best or making up for others’ foibles for coach Ryan and another 40.

All it takes is to hold on when everything will seem to be falling apart. UNC did 10 years ago. They weathered an established coach with a host of players not everybody knows or with substitutes that may be forgotten the next season.

They also had players worthy of long NBA careers and lottery picks. They just got it done and now it’s Wisconsin’s turn.

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