- The Washington Times - Wednesday, April 6, 2005

ST. LOUIS — North Carolina’s NCAA championship may signal the Tar Heels’ return as a national power. However, it also could mark the exodus of a deeply talented roster.

North Carolina and Illinois lose a combined nine seniors after the Tar Heels’ 75-70 victory in the title game Monday night. As many as six underclassmen could head to the NBA early. That could leave forward David Noel as the only returning player from either team in the final who scored.

All of the Final Four teams — North Carolina, Illinois, Louisville and Michigan State — will lose most of their top players.

North Carolina likely will hurt the most. Four seniors will depart, including starting forward Jawad Williams and starting guard Jackie Manuel.

And the underclassmen already have begun announcing their intentions. Coach Roy Williams said yesterday swingman Rashad McCants intends to declare for the NBA Draft — and point guard Raymond Felton could be next. Center Sean May, also a junior, is considering the NBA after winning the Final Four’s Most Outstanding Player award with 26 points and 10 rebounds against Illinois. Freshman forward Marvin Williams said before the tournament he would return, but he might not be able to pass up the possibility of going in the first two or three picks.

“[The championship] feels great … for those players who might not be coming back,” McCants said Monday night.

Translation — goodbye and good luck.

Illinois loses five seniors, including starting guard Luther Head and forward Roger Powell Jr. Junior guards Dee Brown and Deron Williams also are expected to depart, emptying the nation’s best backcourt and leaving forward James Augustine as the Illini’s only returning starter.

Illinois coach Bruce Weber conceded he’s too busy recruiting players to lobby Brown and Williams to return. Then again, maybe he can’t waste time.

“I’ve got to go recruiting Wednesday,” Weber said. “Got to go to Atlanta for an award on Friday, then to L.A. for the Wooden [Award] banquet on Saturday. Hopefully, we’ll get with [Brown and Williams] before the banquet and talk to them about what’s going on.”

Williams pledged to play golf yesterday, but he will be right with Weber today when the NCAA’s recruiting period reopens at 8 a.m. North Carolina started five players from outside the basketball-crazed state for its first title in 12 years, so Williams will look nationwide for replacements.

“I’m going to be on the road recruiting,” Williams said.

Turnover follows success nowadays; dynasties are part of college basketball’s past. None of the 2004 Elite Eight teams returned to the region finals this year. And it could happen again next season.

At the least, May leaves a legacy. By matching the point total his father, Scott May, scored in Indiana’s championship game victory in 1976 and by earning the Final Four’s top individual honor, Sean May established himself as one of the nation’s leading big men. His 10 rebounds were two more than his dad in 1976, giving Sean May eternal bragging rights.

“We’ll have some fun with that,” he said.

After all, memories may be the only lingering part of this title game.

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