Monday, March 30, 2009

Final Four Preview: Villanova/North Carolina Rivalry History - Part 1 - All Three Games, Prior to 1982 NCAA Tournament

To the Villanova Wildcats faithful-

This is Part 1 of the Villanova/North Carolina Rivalry History, as there will be much more detail about all of the 13 previous meetings, especially the four meetings in the NCAA tournament. In this entry, here are the first three occasions upon which the Wildcats and Tar Heels have tangled. After the 1968 meeting, the schools did not meet again until the 1982 NCAA tournament (which will be covered in Part 2 of the Villanova/UNC Rivalry History..)
  1. December 29, 1955 - The Wildcats and Tar Heels meet for the first time, in Chapel Hill, NC. The Tar Heels have no trouble winning, 86-63.
  2. December 30, 1960 - On a neutral court, Carolina once again has no trouble, winning 87-67, in nearby Raleigh, NC - the home of the NC State Wolfpack, ironically.
  3. December 27, 1968 - On another neutral court, this time in New York, the Tar Heels triumph, 68-61.
December 29, 1955 - Chapel Hill, NC - North Carolina 86, Villanova 63

The inaugural meeting between the teams, in an unspecified holiday tournament in Chapel Hill. That Wildcats squad featured Thomas Brennan, James Fahey, Martin Milligan, Robert Powers, James Smith, and Lawrence Tierney... and legendary coach Alexander Severance, the founding father of Villanova basketball. In the subsequent two rounds, the Wildcats fell to Wyoming, before triumphing over Oregon State.

December 30, 1960 - Raleigh, NC - Dixie Classic - North Carolina 87, Villanova 67

Five years later, this second meeting came in Raleigh, NC, during the holiday season, in the Dixie Classic holiday tournament, hosted by NC State. The Tar Heels and Wildcats met in the second round, after the Wildcats had fallen to the host Wolfpack in the first round. North Carolina cruised past Villanova, 87-67. The Wildcats, in an extremely early game against eventual, 21st-century Big East member Marquette, managed to win the third game in Raleigh.

Key members of Severance's Wildcats team that year, were Bernard Chavis, Thomas Galia, James Huggard, Richard Kaminski - and most importantly, the legendary Hubie White, one of the all-time Villanova greats.

December 27, 1968 - New York, NY - Holiday Festival - North Carolina 69, Villanova 61

Eight years after the second meeting, the Wildcats and Tar Heels met once more in a holiday tournament, although this was the first one outside of North Carolina. The Wildcats also had a different coach, as Jack Kraft now had the helm on the Main Line. But in the first round of the holiday tournament, the Wildcats fell, 69-61. (It was one of just five losses that season, against 21 victories.)

The Wildcats rebounded to defeat Holy Cross and Michigan in the later two rounds, and eventually qualified for the NCAA tournament - where they did have to go to North Carolina, where they lost to Davidson in the first round in Raleigh.

It was a very talented Wildcats team - two seasons later, some of the players would play key roles in the 1971 team that went all the way to the national championship game, where Kraft's team would fall after a gallant effort against John Wooden's UCLA dynasty. Some Wildcats who took on the Tar Heels included Frank Gillen, Johnny Johns, Fran O'Hanlon, Sammy Sims, the legendary Howard Porter, and Bob Melchionni.

The next battle between North Carolina and Villanova would have to wait for 13 years. In that time, a great deal changed in the college basketball landscape - and the Wildcats would have the opportunity to face North Carolina in the NCAA tournament for the first time - and a relatively unknown freshman Tar Heel, who went by the name of Michael Jordan...

The Jordan game, on March 21, 1982 - as well as Villanova's first win over North Carolina, in the regular season during the following year - will be the subject of Part 2 of the Villanova/North Carolina Rivalry History...

Over the course of the week, I'll be writing up previous games in the all-time Villanova/North Carolina series, culminating the complete Villanova/North Carolina Rivalry History. And of course, there will be a comprehensive preview of Saturday's Final Four clash - so please check back for more...

In the meantime...

You can also take a look at the other Villanova blogs included in Various Viewpoints on the right sidebar, for their takes...

Go Wildcats!

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