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Villanova's dream is dashed

Villanova's dream of a national championship dies in Detroit.

Villanova's dream is over, buried beneath an avalanche of missed shots.

A repeat of the 1985 national championship will have to wait.

The North Carolina Tar Heels knocked the Wildcats out of the NCAA Tournament, out of the national semifinals, by a convincing score, 83-69. They took a 17-point lead in the first half and watched Villanova whittle it down to five when Shane Clark hit a jumper that made it 50-45. But there still were 18 minutes, 11 seconds to go, miles to go. From that point on, the Wildcats missed their next 11 shots. Eleven, including five on one possession. By that point, the lead was back to a dozen, and then the Tar Heels just played it out.

For the game, Villanvoa missed 53 shots (26 for 79, 32.9 percent). Scottie Reynolds was the Wildcats' leading scorer with 17 points. Reggie Redding had 15, Corey Fisher had 13 and Dante Cunningham had 12. For UNC, Ty Lawson had 22 points and Wynnewood's Wayne Ellington had 20. Ellington had 13 of those by halftime.

It wasn't a classic, or a clasically-played game by either side. Carolina missed 10 free throws in the second half or it would have been even worse. In the last 7 or 8 minutes, both teams looked like battered boxers in the 12 round of a title fight. Villanova gave it everything it had, and extended the game as best it could in the final stages. But the Carolina lead was up to 75-57 with 4:43 left to play and there are few moutains higher than trying to overcome something like that against a No. 1 seed in the Final Four.

There really isn't much to say here. The Tar Heels were the favored team, and the better team, and the Wildcats needed to play a much better game to win. They didn't. They didn't and they lost. It is what happens sometimes when you have the gumption and the good fortune to find yourself on the biggest stage in the sport. But that's the thing -- there are more than 300 college basketball coaches in this country who would have killed to be standing where coach Jay Wright and the Wildcats were standing.

And so, Monday night's national championship game will feature North Carolina and Michigan State. The Big East goes home, first Connecticut, then Villanova. There will be a time, and hopefully it is soon, when the Villanova players and coaches can remember and reflect on the greatness of this season's run.

But it probably won't be tonight. It is often the awful downside of getting this far.