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This Day In Sports: Tar Heels take the title on an unforced error

1982: It was an unforgettable moment—a dream come true for North Carolina, and a nightmare for Georgetown.
Credit: Pete Leabo/AP File Photo
North Carolina coach Dean Smith cuts the net after the Tar Heels defeated Georgetown 63-62 for the NCAA Tournament championship in New Orleans, March 29, 1982.

BOISE, Idaho — THIS DAY IN SPORTS…March 29, 1982, 40 years ago today:

One of the great gaffes in NCAA Tournament history. Georgetown trailed North Carolina 63-62 and had the ball when, with seven seconds left, the Hoyas’ Freddie Brown mistook the Tar Heels’ James Worthy for a teammate and threw Worthy the ball. Michael Jordan had scored the go-ahead basket nine seconds earlier, and that would finally give North Carolina coach Dean Smith his first national championship in his fourth trip to the NCAA title game.

Smith had done just about everything in college basketball coaching at that point—except win a national title. The win over Georgetown made him 468-145 in 21 seasons at UNC. Smith also led the U.S. to the Olympic gold medal at the 1976 Montreal Games. 

His second national championship featured another one of the NCAA Tournament’s all-time gaffes, as Michigan’s Chris Webber’s called an infamous time-out toward the end of the 1993 final. The Wolverines, trailing by two points, didn’t have any time-outs remaining and were assessed a technical foul. North Carolina went on to a 77-71 victory.

Jordan was a freshman on the Tar Heels’ 1981-82 squad, but it was before the days of one-and-done, and Smith was fortunate enough to have His Airness for three seasons before he went to the Chicago Bulls. Jordan was ACC Freshman of the Year and added first-team All-America honors as a sophomore and junior. Worthy, who scored 28 points in the title tilt, was a junior at the time and entered the NBA Draft afterward. He went on to a stellar 12-year career with the L.A. Lakers.

There were a couple of firsts in that 1982 tournament. It was the first time there was no third-place game played at the Final Four. By that time, it was such a letdown for the participating teams that it was abandoned. It was also the first year of CBS telecasting the event. The network created the Selection Sunday show and started broadcasting first and second rounds games from the West Region in its late-night slot. Matchups from Boise’s first NCAA Tournament bracket in 1983 thus received national exposure.

(Tom Scott hosts the Scott Slant segment during the football season on KTVB’s Sunday Sports Extra. He also anchors four sports segments each weekday on 95.3 FM KTIK and one on News/Talk KBOI. His Scott Slant column runs every Wednesday.)

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