No. 8: Mind Games

Andrew Jones, Publisher
Tar Heel Illustrated

Sports Illustrated

No. 8: Mind Games

Frank McGuire was all about winning the mind game with Kansas prior to the 1957 NCAA championship game, which was played in Kansas City.

McGuire’s top-ranked Tar Heels were 31-0 but taking on No. 2 Kansas and 7-foot-1 Wilt Chamberlain in the title game. Just 24 hours earlier, UNC outlasted Michigan State in triple overtime, and this was an even greater task.

So, before the contest, McGuire asked each Tar Heel if they were afraid of Chamberlain, who was easily regarded the best player in the nation at the time. None of the Heels said they were. Then came the mind game: McGuire had 5-11 Tommy Kearns jump center with the other four Tar Heels already set up in a zone ready to defend Kansas, which certainly would win the tip.

"I wanted to show them the zone we were going to use," McGuire reportedly said afterward. "And I wanted to show how ridiculous it is to have anybody jump against Chamberlain. I told some of the photographers to be ready for that picture. It should have been a good one."

Carolina incredibly outrebounded the Jayhawks 42-28 and went on to win the national championship in three overtimes, 54-53.

Those Tar Heels finished the season 32-0, which remains tied for the best record ever in the history of Division One men’s college basketball, later equaled by Indiana’s 1976 squad.

Furthermore, it etched Pete Brennan’s buzzer-beating shot into the lore of Carolina basketball. In the national semifinals versus Michigan State, Brennan rebounded a missed Spartans’ free throw, raced up the court and let go a shot at the buzzer that went through the cylinder sending the Tar Heels to the national championship game.

But the mind game McGuire played with Kansas turned out to be a stroke of genius, and will always be one of the signature moments in UNC basketball lore.

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