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Defense wins championships

The evidence from last night's NCAA championship:

1) UNC ran two days of practice the week before without rims:

Coach Roy Williams had the rims taken down then for the second time this season. They were removed so that Williams could drive home a point in practice. And when the players arrived last Tuesday for the week's first practice after winning the Syracuse Regional championship, they immediately understood what the emphasis was going to be and why.

"We knew it was going to be a tough practice," Jackie Manuel, a senior guard, said. "It was going to be all defense. There's no point in looking at the basket offensively. It's all defense."

2) With the game on the line, Williams had sharpshooter Rashad McCants riding the bench, replacing him with Manuel, an exceptional defender. William C. Rhoden - intrigued by the mercurial and gifted McCants - was watching closely.

This might be an excessive interpretation of two isolated facts, but don't you get the sense that Coach Williams had a plan?

The game was certainly worthy of the occasion. Congratulations to both the Tar Heels and Illini for "delivering the goods."