SportsNation Speaks: 1982 UNC best ever

Updated: March 30, 2006, 7:53 AM ET
SportsNation

 Jordan
Michael Jordan's 1982 UNC squad is SportsNation's pick as the best ever.
ESPN Classic and ESPN.com's SportsNation teamed up to determine which team would win the ultimate college hoops tournament. Over 1.25 million voters contributed to the cause, and decided that seeing Michael Jordan winning titles never gets old.

As a freshman on the 1982 North Carolina squad, which featured the likes of Sam Perkins, James Worthy, Jimmy Black and Matt Doherty, Jordan hit the game-winning shot to send the Tar Heels to the winner's circle. No late wing jumper was needed in ESPN Classic's All-Time Greatest College Basketball Tournament championship game, though.

Those Tar Heels handed the 1976 Indiana Hoosiers something they didn't experience at all that season - a loss. And UNC did it by a relatively comfortable six-percent margin. North Carolina was a No. 3 seed in this tournament, and much like the real NCAA Tournament, there were a fair share of upsets and Cinderella stories. Here's a quick recap of each round leading up to the championship game:

First Round

The first round brought seven upsets according to seed, although three of those were No. 9s defeating No. 8s. The biggest surprises came when the 13th-seeded 1991 Duke Blue Devils bounced the 4th-seeded 1980 Louisville Cardinals, and a Cinderella was born in the form of Larry Bird and the 12th-seeded 1979 Indiana State Sycamores took out 5th-seeded Kentucky from 1978.

Second Round
The round of 32 brought about the dismissal of the tournament's first No. 1 seed, when 1991 UNLV edged the 1967 UCLA Bruins by a mere 19 votes. Despite not winning the championship in 1991, the Runnin' Rebels certainly have a place in the hearts of SportsNation.

In the second-closest game of the second round, 1999 UConn defeated 2001 Duke by 86 votes to move on to the Sweet 16. Meanwhile, those Cinderella Sycamores easily knocked off No. 12-seeded 1991 Duke to setup a matchup with the following season's Blue Devil squad in the Sweet 16.

Sweet 16
And that Larry Bird-led Sycamores team continued its George Mason-like run with a shocking upset of top-seeded 1992 Duke by a scant 11 votes in what proved to be the best game of the tournament. It was a seesaw affair, in which there were four lead changes in the final 15 minutes of voting. How close was it? Neither team led by more than 30 votes at any point.

The other surprise of the regional semis came from the aforementioned 9th-seeded 1991 Runnin' Rebels. Tark the Shark's bunch knocked off Bill Russell's 1955 USF Dons by a comfortable margin. The remaining six Elite 8 teams were all top-three seeds.

Elite 8
East Region: 1982 North Carolina had a surprisingly easy time with a stout 1984 Georgetown squad, winning 65 percent to 35 percent.

Southeast Region: Rick Pitino's 1996 Kentucky Wildcats, which featured eight future NBA players, finally put an end to Indiana State's great run, but not without a fight from the Sycamores, 56-44.

Midwest Region: The unbeaten Indiana Hoosiers of 1976 proved way too much for Magic Johnson, Greg Kelser and 1979 Michigan State, 60-40.

West Region: The closest Elite 8 game featured the 1969 UCLA Bruins and those freakishly-athletic 1991 Runnin' Rebs. But too much Lew Alcindor in the minds of SportsNation, as UCLA moved on to the Final Four, 55-45.

Final Four
Neither national semifinal was terribly close. 1976 Indiana defeated 1969 UCLA, 54-46, while 1982 North Carolina showed 1996 Kentucky the door by the same count. UCLA had ten entries in the field of 64, but only one reached the Final Four. And coach John Wooden was denied another title - albeit mythical - 31 years after his last one in reality.

To view the entire tournament, check out the all-time greatest basketball tournament bracket!