Every sport teaches us something. That’s why we connect with them on a visceral level. Football is a lesson in determination. Baseball, where a .500 season is pretty good and being successful at bat a third of the time gets you into the Hall of Fame, teaches us how to lose and yet go on.

Basketball reminds us that we are always better when we work together than when we try to go it alone.

Roy Williams made a point of that after Monday night’s game. Sure the Tar Heels have talent, he said, but the trophy they brought back from St. Louis belongs to every one of them.

And for the tens of thousands who crowded into Chapel Hill and Carrboro trying to find a seat or just a place to stand and for who knows how many more who hovered around the TV or the radio at home, well, it belongs to them, too.

It’s funny how folks can get worked up over the course of a win streak like the one that took the Heels to the championship–same socks, same seat, don’t switch kinds of beer, be sure to hug so-and-so before the game. We all have rituals that we believe helps the team even though it defies logic and, possibly, quantum mechanics. We joke about such things (“We’re gonna need a good game out of you tonight Ross,” someone said to me before the tip), but we wouldn’t dare violate the rite.

And so the Tar Heels–the ones on the court and the extended version of what Dean Smith likes to call the Carolina Family–now have a season of memories and ultimate triumph. And they earned it as a team. Anybody who saw the fight Illinois put up, the fire in Sean May as he followed in his dad’s footsteps, the determination of Raymond Felton, and the heart of the team’s seniors know they were bearing down for each other and their coach. Whether you’re a sports freak or not, that’s something you can take away from all this.

This week, in addition to naming the winners of our annual Best of the Triangle readers’ poll, we take a look at what makes this place so special. We know, and now the rest of the world has been reminded that one of those things is our love for the game of basketball.

Last month a visiting musician told the crowd at Cat’s Cradle that the Triangle was the only place in the country where the local music scene digs basketball.

He’s right, of course, and I can tell you that for a lot of us our favorite band right now is from Chapel Hill. They wear blue when they play. And they rock.