Carolina fans have plenty to cheer about these days. When your team has outscored its four tournament opponents 372-271 and has a National Player of the Year and four future pros in the starting five, you tend to spend a lot of time exercising your vocal chords. But no matter how high the Tar Heel faithful amp up the Alamo Dome decibel level this weekend, it will be hard to match the joyous roar that rocked Raleigh’s RNC Center two weeks ago.

The mayhem came with four minutes and 39 seconds remaining in Carolina’s 113-74 massacre of Mount St. Mary’s. The patrons in powder blue were already giddy. The Heels had opened up a can on their opening round opponents, and five different players had scored in double figures. But when Surry Wood, Jack Wooten, Marc Campbell, Patrick Moody and J.B. Tanner entered the floor, it sent the Carolina crowd into absolute delirium.


The “Final Five” – as Wooten aptly dubbed Carolina’s quintet of reserves earlier in the year – are hard to describe without, ahem, stepping outside the bounds of political correctness. Just think of them as five dudes goofing around at the rec center on Saturday afternoon. You know, the sad, pathetic ones stuck in fantasyland that ordered custom-made Carolina uniforms off the Internet for intramural hoops? That’s kind of what the five mop heads Roy Williams put in for mop-up duty looked like. Not one stood taller than 6-foot-5. None blessed with a lightning quick crossover or silky soft fade away. I looked them up in the 208-page media guide – three of them weren’t listed. The cumulative season statistics revealed a combined five minutes of playing time experience between them. Wooten hadn’t scored all season.

Then they started running Williams’ up-tempo offense to perfection – and only slightly slower than Tyler Hansbrough, Wayne Ellington and Ty Lawson.

It wasn’t long before Campbell was dishing out assists like John Stockton in baggy shorts. Each time down the floor, a different mod squad member scored. Wooten, sporting a goofy mustache straight out of Boogie Nights, sank a three from the corner. Tanner, a junior playing his first season of varsity ball, dropped one from the top of the key. Moody, an honors student majoring in biology, slipped in a 15-footer.

It was beautiful basketball – they were taking turns. The crowd loved every minute of it. As did Williams, who hollered play calls and encouragement from the bench, 40-point lead be damned.

“He treats us just like the rest of the guys,” Moody said afterward. “He has real high expectations for us too.”

That may very well be the case, but there is no way Williams could have possibly foreseen what would take place at the 1:43 mark. Campbell lapped up a loose ball on the far end of the floor and led the fast break charge. Wood streaked down the court and went airborne from the far block, just as Campbell lofted a pass skyward. Watching Wood – generously listed at a tall 6-foot-5, and a svelte 210 pounds – catch the ball in midair and slam it home, you’d have sworn the opening weekend of the Big Dance had been swapped for the low-hoop tourney at the frat house.

Pandemonium ensued in the stands. Williams looked as if he’d just seen a ghost. The Carolina bench had to be restrained like they were 13-year-old girls at an N’SYNC concert circa 1999.

In an instant, my “Hey, maybe I could have played college basketball after all …” ruminations evaporated as I confronted the hard truth: The worst players on the best team in America are still damn good.

It was a dream come true for Wood and company. Except for Campbell – who transferred from UNC Greensboro – each member of the Final Five served time on the junior varsity. Wood, the alley-oop extraordinaire, warmed the bench at Division III Hampden Sydney before transferring to Carolina and working his way up the depth chart. Moody, whose brother Christian was a practice squad star at Kansas, is of prime walk-on pedigree.

“We’re going against all-Americans everyday in practice,” said Wooten, a junior who toiled for two seasons on the JV. “We have to have some chemistry between us, or we won’t accomplish anything.”

In a crowded postgame locker room, Wooten – who got hot and finished with five points in as many minutes – and the rest of the not-so-fab-five introduced themselves to reporters who hadn’t known they existed an hour before.

“I only perform on the biggest stages,” Wooten said when asked about his out-of-this-world, out-of-nowhere scoring performance. “When it rains, it pours.”

Wood stood in a corner, answering questions in a slow Carolina drawl more befitting of a senior senator than a high-flying jam master.

What Wooten discovered with his scoring touch, Wood found with his self-confidence – when it rains, it pours.

He agreed with a reporter who told him his dunk looked like something Vince Carter might pull off. He said he planned on giving teammate Marcus Ginyard a few pointers since the former Gatorade Player of the Year had whiffed on a slam during the game.

“I can’t wait to go home and see it on TV,” said Wood, who grew up in Raleigh, of his slam. “I’m sure someone has it on DVR. I’m going to watch it like 50 times!”

Wood said the best part was hearing his hometown crowd roar and watching his teammates go crazy on the sideline.

“I just saw the whole bench jump up,” Wood said, beaming. “It was a pretty amazing feeling.”

In its NCAA tournament preview issue, Sports Illustrated listed 65 reasons why “[March] is the best basketball month of the year.” Number 42: “Bench players locking arms as their diaper dandy teammate attempts game-tying free throw.”

After watching Wood and the Final Five, I have to say diaper dandies raising their arms in jubilation as a bench player slams home an alley-oop in a 40-point blowout is twice as rewarding.

Harlan Goode is a senior in the College. He can be reached at The Goode Worde appears every Friday in HOYA SPORTS.

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