Maybe it has something to do with the 40--12 hole that the Tar Heels fell into against Kansas in last April's national semifinal, when they lost 84--66. Maybe their stars saw this season's weak freshman class and realized their draft status would be higher in '09. Or maybe they just want to win, as their coach might put it, a dadgummed frickin' championship. Just as long as that's not the only reason. "I talked to each guy about two things," says Williams, who vows never again to read the
fanzine after it asked whether last season's 36--3 team was a failure. "Don't come back if it's only to win a title—or if you think we'll get you 30 shots a game. We're about one thing: our team."
With all the talk of elite players like Hansbrough serving their full four-year terms, it's only natural in this election season for SI to hail the men's and women's "running mates" on our preview covers. More than ever, it seems, basketball powerhouses of both genders are emerging on the same campuses: not just old standbys such as Connecticut and Tennessee but also at places like Arizona State, Notre Dame, North Carolina, Oklahoma and Pittsburgh. At Louisville the women's basketball team enjoys the same kind of financial support—and, increasingly, fan support—as the men's does. "We're seeing women's basketball [programs] become much more aggressive," says Louisville athletic director Tom Jurich, whose school is building a $238 million arena to be shared by its men and women. "It's a highly visible sport, a lot of our games are televised, and we get great crowds. Women's basketball is a high, high, high priority for us." And for one campaign, at least, the men's game shares what makes the women's game so appealing: star-power staying power that has produced Hansbrough-style figures past ( Tennessee's Candace Parker, UConn's Diana Taurasi) and present.
The result is an electricity that's arcing through college basketball, no matter how many arcs may be on the floor.