For many of the NCAA tournament's remaining players, the Final Four will mark the end of their remarkable college careers. Some will make it to the NBA, where others stars from their university thrived.
North Carolina, Oregon, Gonzaga and South Carolina have all sent enough players to the league to create All-NBA starting fives for each school. That does not necessarily mean the squads are evenl -matched. UNC could probably produce four or five sets of NBA starting fives before one of the other three schools could compete. But who doesn't want to see Renaldo Balkman try to guard James Worthy?
These lists are based on NBA/ABA performance, not college legacy. So no, Tyler Hansbrough and Adam Morrison didn't get the call.
North Carolina Tar Heels
G Michael Jordan
G Vince Carter
F James Worthy
F Billy Cunningham
C Bob McAdoo
As expected, the Tar Heels have the most stacked roster of any NBA alumni in this year's Final Four. Picking a starting five is not as difficult as that may suggest. Four UNC alums have made the Basketball Hall of Fame, giving those players the first four spots. Michael Jordan is obviously Michael Jordan. James Worthy is an NBA Finals MVP, three-time NBA champion and member of the NBA's 50th Anniversary All-Time Team (1996). Billy Cunningham averaged a double-double for his career (21.2 ppg, 10.4 rpg), made three All-NBA Teams and won an ABA MVP. Bob McAdoo won an NBA MVP, led the NBA in scoring three times and averaged 22. 1 points for his career. That's a pretty darn good core four.
As for the fifth spot, there are perhaps a dozen options. If this list focused only on the best college players, Tyler Hansbrough would make a case for the fifth spot. If a real executive was organizing this team, he or she would probably want a point guard like Larry Brown, Kenny Smith, Raymond Felton or Ty Lawson to spread the floor. Or, if a coach wanted some more force up front, Rasheed Wallace, Brad Daugherty and Antawn Jamison are all available. Shooting guards Charlie Scott, Jerry Stackhouse and Danny Green could also provide options to spread the floor.
But we're going with a potential future Hall of Famer who can do a number of things. Vince Carter has made eight All-Star Games, won a Slam Dunk Contest and made two All-NBA teams. His career scoring average of 18.3 points is misleading, considering the 40-year-old has not averaged that much in a season since 2008-09. With Michael Jordan playing a James Harden-esque point guard role, Carter and Worthy can get out ahead in transition for high-flying fastbreaks.
G Terrell Brandon
G Luke Ridnour
G Steve Jones
F Greg Ballard
C Blair Rasmussen
Like the current Ducks, the All-NBA Ducks are ready to run. Oregon, which won the first NCAA tournament in 1939 and is just now making its Final Four return, is deep in NBA guard history. Brandon was a two-time All-Star, who averaged 13.8 points and 6.1 assists for his career. Ridnour started in the NBA for roughly a decade, averaging 9.3 points and 4.5 assists. "Snapper" Jones was a three-time ABA All-Star, who averaged 15.2 points in the pros. Aaron Brooks and Fred Jones, two other respectable NBA guards, narrowly miss the starting five.
Greg Ballard, the No. 4 pick in the 1977 NBA Draft by the Washington Bullets, won an NBA title in his rookie season, playing with Wes Unseld, Elvin Hayes and Bob Dandridge. Ballard played most of his 10-year career with the Bullets, also making stops with the Warriors and SuperSonics. He averaged 12.4 points and 6.1 rebounds for his career. Blair Rasmussen plays an outdated, but necessary center position to body-up the old-school centers on this list. Rasmussen put up 9.6 points and 5.7 rebounds in eight seasons with the Nuggets and Hawks.
G John Stockton
G Dan Dickau
F Austin Daye
F Kelly Olynyk
C Ronny Turiaf
Kelly Olynyk and Ronny Turiaf are good bigs, but neither is to be confused with Karl Malone. John Stockton would have his hands full carrying this offense, which would probably take the NBA's all-time assists leader back to his days leading Gonzaga in the early 1980s. Turiaf would at least provide a formidable interior defensive presence, while Olynyk could work inside or outside.
As strong as Gonzaga has been in terms of NCAA tournament appearances, the success of its alums in the NBA has been lacking. Austin Daye is already out of the NBA, but his six seasons averaging 5.2 points are enough to get him on the squad as a swingman. Dan Dickau had one season with New Orleans in which he averaged 13.2 points, but he never did better than 5.3 points in his other five NBA seasons. Thunder rookie Domantas Sabonis and current Bulldogs Nigel Williams-Goss, Przemek Karnowski and Zach Collins have a strong chance to play their way onto this roster. Robert Sacre, who averaged 4.2 points and 3.1 rebounds in four seasons for the Lakers, is the current sixth man.
Poor Adam Morrison, who averaged 7.5 points in three seasons, never had a chance. Morrison averaged 11.8 points in 78 games as a rookie. He blew out his knee at the start of his second season and only played 83 games the rest of his career, but did collect two NBA championship rings as a reserve with the Lakers.
South Carolina Gamecocks
G Brian Winters
G Mike Dunleavy Sr.
F Alex English
F Renaldo Balkman
C Tom Owens
This team may surprise, considering South Carolina's low-profile basketball history. Alex English was born and raised in Columbia before becoming a Gamecock. In the NBA, he made eight All-Star teams and All-NBA teams, and he won the 1982-83 scoring title. English would have to carry the scoring, as he did most of his career in Denver.
Winters played with English in college and for two years with the Bucks, but the two never popped together in the NBA. However, Winters did earn two All-Star Game nods and his No. 32 is retired in Milwaukee. He averaged 16.2 points for his career. While Renaldo Balkman provides limited offensive skills, his defensive talent and ability to play in the modern NBA make him a necessary piece for the roster. Mike Dunleavy Sr., who averaged 8.0 points, and Tom Owens, who averaged 11.3 points and 6.8 rebounds, round out the lineup. Gary Gregor, who averaged 8.9 points and 6.3 rebounds in six NBA/ABA seasons, would make for a decent sixth man.
UNC would torch Oregon, and Stockton would narrowly lead Gonzaga by South Carolina, despite Alex English owning Austin Daye. Jordan and the Tar Heels overcome a valient Gonzaga effort in the championship game, as MJ beats Stockton for another title.