Tyler Hansbrough Gets the Last Laugh as UNC Wins the NCAA Crown

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Tyler Hansbrough Gets the Last Laugh as UNC Wins the NCAA Crown
(Photo by Andy Lyons/Getty Images)

Last April, North Carolina was knocked out of the Final Four by Kansas, and no one was more distraught than Tyler Hansbrough.

Hansbrough had another impressive season and seemed to have everything going for him. He won the NCAA Player of the Year award and was expected to be a high draft pick if he declared for the NBA draft.

The only thing missing? A national championship. 

Most guys would have opted to go pro, get paid to play basketball, and forsake the opportunity to win a national championship. But not Hansbrough.

Hansbrough felt his team had a really good chance of winning if his teammates Ty Lawson and Wayne Ellington decided to stay on. Once they were on board, Hansbrough had no doubt in his mind he was going to stay at UNC, finish college, and take one more shot at NCAA glory.

However, almost as soon as he made that decision, his entire NCAA career was being called into question.

People went from hailing his skills and work ethic to saying he was overrated and could never survive in the NBA. How could he go from the top of everyone's lists to being on their hit list so fast?

Hansbrough earned the respect of his teammates and coaches back when he was a freshman.

Coach Roy Williams has said he had never had a player with Hansbrough's work ethic. There was no chance you would ever catch Tyler slacking off. He always wanted to improve, and never let up no matter the situation.

After suffering that awful broken nose in 2007 during a game against Duke, Hansbrough went to Williams with blood all over his face and uniform and still wanted to play.

Williams had to tell him he would benefit the team if he got his nose taken care of and didn't try to play the rest of the game. He never missed any time due to the injury.

Then last year, Kansas had UNC by 18 points in the final minutes of the Final Four game, and Hansbrough was still diving for loose balls and throwing his body around, refusing to back down.

From the start of the season, North Carolina was picked as the team that could definitely win the national championship, and throughout the season they proved just why they were so good.

The talk shifted from Hansbrough to his teammates Lawson, Ellington, and Danny Green and how they all fueled the Tarheels. Hansbrough was continually criticised, but he let his teammates have the spotlight because being the center of attention is not what Hansbrough is about.

He served as the heartbeat of the Tarheels, and brushed aside what all the critics had to say about him to still go out and play his game.

Hansbrough was a big part of the championship game, and even though UNC had Michigan State backed up into a corner for almost the entire game, Hansbrough and UNC never let up.

As the clock expired, Hansbrough was the guy jumping up and down with the huge grin on his face. He touched the championship trophy while wearing his championship hat, cut down a piece of the net for the final time in his college career, and couldn't stop smiling.

UNC had won their fifth National Championship, and second under Williams.

The projected best team back in October was holding the championship trophy in April.

All Hansbrough needed to say was, "I guess I made the right choice in staying."

No one had anything negative to say about him because he was a big reason North Carolina was victorious.

And now he gets to have the last laugh, because no matter what happens from here on out, he will go down as one of the best players in NCAA basketball history.

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