UNC Basketball: Top 10 Tar Heels NCAA Tournament Performances of All Time
Guess who didn't make the list...
In the history of the NCAA Tournament, few schools have shined brighter than the University of North Carolina. School pride, toughness, talent and outstanding coaching has been the foundation of UNC's glory—and has led to many amazing performances by Tar Heels, throughout their storied history.
There are so many to choose from, but the performances I picked define the North Carolina legacy. Some played injured and other just flat-out dominated their opponent. And you will find most of their jerseys hanging in the Dean Dome.
Whether you're a new fan or old, it's always good to brush up on Carolina history. That's why I enjoy doing these pieces. I always learn something new and I hope you will, too.
10. Kendall Marshall: March 13, 2012 vs. Creighton
Streeter Lecka/Getty Images
When a point guard shoots 85 percent from the field and picks up a double-double, his performance should definitely be taken into consideration. Factor in his injury, and it's a lock. It's only been a couple weeks since Kendall Marshall put it on Creighton, but his performance deserved to make my top 10 list.
Marshall was absolutely unstoppable. The only downside to his game was that maybe he should have shot more. He finished 7-of-8 from the field—only missing one of his two three-pointers. He also dished out 11 assists to complete the double-double.
With 10:56 left in the game, Marshall took a spill that fractured his wrist. He was momentarily taken out, but would return to play for eight more minutes. His performance helped UNC pull out an 87-73 victory over a tough Creighton team.
Only five times in Carolina history, has anyone collected 11 or more assists in an NCAA Tournament game. Kendall Marshall also holds the record, with 14 against Washington in 2011.
9. Sean May: March 27, 2005 vs. Wisconsin
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In 2005, Sean May was a beast on the inside and helped propel North Carolina to their fourth national championship. His greatest performance came against Wisconsin, where he put up 29 points and 12 rebounds.
May finished 13-of-19 from the field, 3-of-4 from the free throw line and picked up two assists. North Carolina would pull out a tight one, 88-82.
He compiled 45 points and 22 rebounds over that weekend, to earn Syracuse Regional MVP honors. UNC would go on to win the 2005 national title, and Sean May added another trophy to his case—the tourney's Most Outstanding Player.
8. Donald Williams: April 5, 1993 vs. Michigan
1993 NCAA Championship Highlights
Donald Williams became known for his pinpoint accuracy, throughout his career in Chapel Hill. The Tar Heels played a great team game, during their run in 1993. But it was the marksmanship of Donald Williams that put them over the top.
UNC was facing Michigan's legendary Fab Five in the 1993 NCAA Championship. Their hype didn't faze Williams, as he proceeded to put up 25 points. He also went 5-of-7 from the arc and owns the record for the most threes by a Tar Heel in an NCAA Championship.
7. James Worthy: March 29, 1982 vs. Georgetown
1982 NCAA Championship Highlights
When most people think about the 1982 NCAA Championship, Michael Jordan's game-winner is the first thing to pop in their heads. Jordan had 16 points in the game, but nobody scored more than James Worthy.
Worthy dominated, going 13-of-17 from the floor and scoring 28 points—the most by a Tar Heel in a championship game. It wasn't just his scoring, either.
Worthy had three steals in the game—the final one would seal the title for the Tar Heels. Shortly after Jordan's shot, Worthy intercepted a pass from Georgetown's Fred Brown and Georgetown wouldn't have time to get off a good shot at the end.
His performance in the title game helped earn a Most Outstanding Player award for the 1982 NCAA Tournament.
6. Ty Lawson: April 6, 2009 vs. Michigan State
2009 NCAA Championship Highlights
I wish I could rank Ty Lawson's performance in the 2009 NCAA Championship much higher. He played an incredible game. Unfortunately for one of my favorite Tar Heels, there were a few injury games and great scoring performances to keep him out of the top five.
Lawson scored 21 points and shot 15-of-18 from the line, in Carolina's dominant 89-72 win over the Michigan State Spartans. His 15 successful free throws are a UNC tourney record. He also snatched an incredible eight steals—a tournament record.
Did I mention he had six assists to just one turnover? Not a bad game from the fastest point guard to don a Carolina uniform.
5. Charlie Scott: March 15, 1969 vs. Davidson
Charlie Scott's 32 points would have been enough to make the list anyway, but it's what he did in the end that earned him top five honors.
Scott scored 12 of North Carolina's last 17 points, including the game-winning jumper with two seconds left in the game. Without his close-out performance, the Heels may have been knocked out in the first round. Instead, UNC escaped with an 87-85 win.
He finished 14-of-21 from the floor and picked up six rebounds and four assists.
Charlie Scott would later put his name in the UNC record books, knocking down 16 field goals in a tournament game. Unfortunately, it would come in a loss.
Scott also made history when he committed to North Carolina, becoming their first African-American scholarship athlete.
4. Walter Davis: March 19, 1977 vs. Kentucky
Walter Davis broke a finger on his shooting hand in the ACC Tournament, but that wouldn't hold him back in the following tournament.
Davis played with three screws in his broken finger, and still managed to put up 21 points in the game. He didn't finish with mind-blowing numbers, but putting up 21 points with a broken finger on his shooting hand is pretty baller in my book.
The Tar Heels won this game 79-72 to move on to the Final Four. Despite having a great team, injuries would eventually prove to be too much for North Carolina in 1977.
3. Lennie Rosenbluth: March 15, 1957 vs. Canisius
The famous Lennie Rosenbluth put up 39 points against Canisius in the East Regional Semifinal. He wouldn't be the last to put up that number, but he remains tied for the most points by a Tar Heel in NCAA Tournament history.
North Carolina would move on to win the 1957 NCAA Championship against the Kansas Jayhawks and their legendary center Wilt Chamberlain. It would be the first of many, and Rosenbluth's shooting was key to their run in 1957.
Rosenbluth's name is scattered all over the UNC record books. He was a scoring machine and averaged 28 points per game during the 1956-57 campaign. He was snubbed by Chamberlain for the Most Outstanding Player of the tournament—even though Kansas lost.
2. Al Wood: March 28, 1981 vs. Virginia
1981 Final Four: UNC vs. UVA Highlights
Al Wood became the second player in UNC history to score 39 points in a tournament game. What separated his performance from Lennie Rosenbluth's, was the fact he was nursing a shoulder injury.
Wood injured his shoulder early in the season and would later dislocate the same shoulder. It didn't seem to affect his shooting in the 1981 NCAA semifinals, against the Virginia Cavaliers.
Wood finished 14-of-19 from the field, 11-of-13 from the charity stripe and managed 10 rebounds with the bad shoulder. It's hard not to love a gritty performance like that.
1. Phil Ford: March 17, 1977 vs. Notre Dame
Phil Ford injures hist wrist and plays on.
Phil Ford is known as one of the best point guards to put on a Carolina uniform—he also may be one of the toughest. Ford's performance in the regional semifinals earned him top honors on my list.
Phil Ford hyper-extended his elbow in the game and continued to get knocked to the floor, throughout. It didn't slow him down on this night. Ford still scored 29 points and was a perfect 9-of-9 from the free throw line.
Ford would also ice the game with his final free throw, with only two seconds left in their 79-77 triple-overtime win over Notre Dame. To top it off, the win over the Fighting Irish happened to come on St. Patrick's Day.
The Tar Heels had to fight through a lot of injuries in 1977, and it was eventually too much to overcome.
The lack of a 1977 title may be a small blemish in Carolina history, but the gutsy performances by their injured players—especially Phil Ford—will forever embody what it means to be a Tar Heel.