MEMPHIS, TN - MARCH 29: Head coach Roy Williams and Ty Lawson #5 of the North Carolina Tar Heels celebrate after defeating the Oklahoma Sooners during the NCAA Men's Basketball Tournament South Regional Final at the FedExForum on March 29, 2009 in Memphis, Tennessee. The Tar Heels defeated the Sooners 72-60 to advance to the Final Four. (Photo by Joe Murphy/Getty Images)

This weekend as I continued to “Shock The World,” I made it a point to attend a UNC Tar Heels men’s basketball game. My daughter and I had good seats in the fourth row, and we sat there with our popcorn and lemonade observing the Heels beat the brakes off of East Tennesee State. That victory was no surprise, but I did notice something about the team that let me realize why the Tar Heels will not win a national championship this year.

Throughout the arena there are banners. Unlike most arenas out there, the Dean E Smith Center doesn’t have a ring of honor that gives credit to great players in the history of the school. At UNC, they do it different. At UNC, they hang the jerseys of their most important players in history so they will never be forgotten. It is truly an impressive sight as you observe, and as I continued to look at the names and the championships something became apparent to me, which led me to this post.

I was awakened to the fact that I might have the ability to recognize when the Tar Heels are going to be contenders for a national championship. The recipe for success is actually hanging in the rafters and is pretty simple when you think about it. They always seem to have a big guy who can make an impact, but the team is dependent on having a combination that has to work in the back court.

The recipe calls for a point guard to be a tone-setter and game-changer with the ability to make the opposing point guard miserable. He can do it in a variety of ways.

  1. He puts pressure on the ball and makes life miserable for the opposing guard when he has the ball. Suffocating defense is almost always a good thing to have at the guard position.
  2. If the point guard isn’t a scorer, the shooting guard better be an assassin. Usually when the point guard isn’t a guy who can take over the game, the shooter better be better than average. In fact, he better be a guy who can put the biscuit in the basket better than anyone else on the court.
  3. If the shooting guard has deficiencies, then the point guard better be able to pick up the offensive slack. Some guys can shoot, but they are streak shooters. When this is the case, you have to have a point guard who can pick up the slack. Coaches don’t like going to reserves to score, and if they have to they usually lose something in the exchange.

Carolina basketball is predicated throughout the years on the ability of the shooting guard. UNC has won five national championships. I can’t speak on the 1957 team because I wasn’t alive to see it, but the other four championship teams all had pretty good guard tandems.

Especially during the Dean Smith er,a the shooting guard was the key component to the success of the team. Dean really liked point guards who could handle the ball and get the ball to the shooters and the post players. Having talent is never an issue for the Tar Heels, as almost every player on the team is some sort of High School All-American or McDonald’s All-American.

Dean Smith-coached teams were always solid, but he made sure he had a floor general. The 1982 team that won the national championship is remembered for having Michael Jordan, Sam Perkins and Big Game James Worthy. What most people don’t remember is that Jimmy Black was the glue that held that team together.

The 1993 team that won it all for the Tar Heels was led by Donald Williams, George Lynch and Eric Montross. However, the catalyst for that team was a feisty Derrick Phelps, who made sure he could create for his teammates.

The Dean Smith formula was solid. Even though he had moments when he seemed to have more talent than anyone else on the floor, he never really won unless he had that one guy on the floor who was a general. He demanded that guy who the rest of the team was going to follow.