It’s time to Break It Down!
As we enter the third week of a new decade, there are a plethora of newsworthy items to select from in determining a topic du jour. The final edition of the Democratic Debates preceding the kick-off of the Iowa Caucuses and subsequent Primaries took place last night in Des Moines, Iowa, the United States House of Representatives is set to vote today on whether to send Articles of Impeachment to the United States Senate, the NCAA crowned a brand new National Champion in College Football Monday night, Donald Trump is feverishly tweeting attacks on the Democrats who have declared he will be impeached for life, and nearly a month into winter, the mid-Atlantic states are being toyed with by 70 degree temperatures. Each and every one of those items has the heft to carry the day. Alas, I’m going in a different direction.
If you have been a regular visitor to this space, or even perhaps a periodic one, you may know I occasionally dabble in sports topics, and that I lean heavily toward Carolina Blue. This weekend Tar Heel partisans the world over said good-bye to an era. As Saturday afternoon prepared to give way to evening, something happened that had never before occurred. A men’s basketball team representing Clemson University played a game against the UNC Tar Heels, and they left victorious. In a manner of speaking, the barbarians had not only stormed the gate, but they lived to tell the story in every colorful, and for Tar Heel fans, painful detail.
Casual sports fans, and certainly nonfans likely have no idea the dimensions of the tectonic hoops shift that took place Saturday in Chapel Hill. To place it in context, Carolina and Clemson have been playing basketball since 1926. Prior to Saturday, the Tigers had made 59 visits to Chapel Hill, in 93 years, and exited the premises 0-59. Cutting to the chase, it took 60 visits, over the course of 94 years to break what in Tar Heel parlance has for decades been known simply as, “The Streak.” It had endured my entire life; obviously dating back to before I became a fan, in fact before I was born.
Tar Heel hoops lore is replete with an abundant array of historical achievements.
- Won 6 National Titles, trailing only UCLA (11), and Kentucky (8)
- NCAA Runner-up 5 times
- Won 18 ACC Tournament Titles
- Won 32 ACC Regular Season Titles
- Won 20 Outright ACC Regular Season Titles
- Produced three players on the NBA 50 Greatest Players List
- Became the second program to win 2,000 games (remain 1 of 4 to do so)
- Through 2019, maintain the second highest winning percentage all-time (.739)
- Played in 11 NCAA Title Games
- Appeared in 20 Finals Fours (most of any team)
- Made 48 NCAA Tournament Appearances
- Won 123Games NCAA Tournament Games
- Won an NIT Tournament Title
- Appeared in the NIT 6 times
- Been Ranked in the Top 25 in the AP Poll 915 weeks (most all-time)
- Beaten #1 Ranked Teams 14 times (a record)
- Averaged more wins per season played than any other team
- Most consecutive 20-win Seasons (31)
- Most consecutive Top Three ACC finishes (37)
- Finished the Season ranked in the AP Top 25 50 times
- Finished the Season ranked in the Coaches Poll Top 25 52 times
- Finished the Season Ranked #1 in the AP Poll 5 times
- Finished the Season Ranked #1 in the Coaches Poll 6 times
- In 2008, received the first unanimous #1 Pre-season Ranking in either Poll
- Ranked #1 by ESPN – Most Successful Program in the past 50 years (2012)
- 1957 Season – 32-0; defeated Wilt Chamberlain & Kansas for the Title
- Currently 16 NBA players are Tar Heel alums
- !5 Tar Heels have played in the Olympics
- 6 Tar Heels are in the Naismith Hall of Fame as players
- 5 Tar Heels are in the Naismith Hall of Fame as coaches
- 49 All-American Players – Chosen a total of 78 times
The next time Coach Roy Williams and the Tar Heels win a game, Coach Williams will eclipse Dean Smith as North Carolina’s career leader in wins, with 880. It will be a swell day for Carolina, for the Tar Heel Nation, and especially for Coach Williams. He’ll downplay play it of course, looking for ways to elevate and energize his team, and in deference to his mentor, Coach Smith. More than anything else though, at this point, it will mean the Heels have won a game. After a losing streak that has already reached three games, all in Chapel Hill (a not-so-good record in its own right), a first since his return to coach the Heels, Coach, the team, and all of Tar Heeldom are anxious for the relief only a W can bring.
But I digress. I saw a graph that framed this discourse more poignantly than anything else I’ve seen. It said, in essence, in chart form, “Number of Wins in Chapel Hill This Decade: Georgia Tech – 1, University of Pittsburgh – 1, Clemson University – 1, University of North Carolina – 0! The subject is “The Streak.” That it is enhanced by two games (so far) does, I suppose, add injury to insult. But for me, at least, it does not alter the narrative.
There are a lot of reasons Carolina is 8-8, but, as Coach Williams likes to say, when you put on the Carolina Jersey and step on the court, you are Carolina. No reasons, and/or excuses resonate. There are 15 games left in the Regular Season, all Conference games, and 9 on the road. By the time this season ends, it could be one of the worse ever in Chapel Hill. But even if the team were to catch fire, and roll through the rest of the season undefeated, I dadgum (a Royism, if you don’t know) assure you, there will be players and members of the coaching staff, as well as fans from near and far who will recall that on January 11, 2020, Clemson finally won in Chapel Hill. Congratulations Clemson; GO HEELS! “The Streak:” It’s Over Now!
I’m done; holla back!
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