It’s time to Break It Down!

Monday night was the end of this year’s college basketball season. Congratulations to the Kansas Jayhawks, the 2022 NCAA College Basketball’s National Champions. May they, Coach Bill Self, staff, students, and fans thoroughly enjoy their well-deserved “One Shining Moment.”

Of course, this post is not about any of the above. It’s an homage to my alma mater, the runner-up, University of North Carolina Tar Heels. If you are familiar with my posts, you know that from time to time, I write about the Heels. This is one of those posts.

The past year has been one of a roller-coaster of experiences for the team, and emotions for fans. On April 1, 2021, Roy Williams, the Tar Heel Coach for 18 years abruptly announced his retirement. Like a lot of Tar Heel fans, I initially thought it was an April Fools’ Day prank. It wasn’t.

Three days later, on April 4, the University of North Carolina named Tar Heel Assistant Coach Hubert Davis as their new Head Coach. A year later, Coach Davis and the Tar Heels were at the center of college basketball’s biggest, most compelling stage, the NCAA Championship Game, held this year at the New Orleans Super Dome.

North Carolina is an elite program. The Heels started playing basketball in 1910 and have amassed a record of 2,321 wins and 831 losses, for a winning percentage of .736. UNC Hoops has an extraordinary list of superlatives that include:

  • Third winningest program of all-time
  • 1 Premo- Poretta Title (Pre-NCAA), undefeated season 
  • 1 Helms Foundation Title (Pre NCAA), undefeated season
  • 6 National Titles, including an undefeated season in 1957 (Third most all-time)
  • 6 National Runner-up finishes, including 2022
  • 21 Final Four Appearances (most all-time)
  • 29 Elite Eight Appearances
  • 35 Sweet Sixteen Appearances
  • 52 NCAA Tournament Appearances
  • 8 Southern Conference Tournament Titles
  • 9 Southern Conference Regular Season Titles
  • 18 ACC Tournament Titles
  • 32 ACC Regular Season Titles (most all-time)
  • 49 All-American Players (Chosen 78 Times)
  • 130 NCAA Tournament Wins (most all-time) 
  • 17 Number 1 NCAA Tournament Seeds (most all-time)
  • 928 Weeks Ranked in the AP Top 25
  • 14 Times Defeated the Number 1 Ranked Team in the Country (8 Times – Duke)
  • 8 Retired Jerseys (Must have won at least 1 National Player of the Year Award)
  • 43 Honored Jerseys (Must have won National Title MVP, Olympic Gold Medalist, 1st or 2nd Team All-America, ACC Player of the Year, or NCAA Tournament MOP honors)
  • 11 Members of the Naismith Hall of Fame (5 as Coach)
  • 21 Olympians (6 Coaches)
  • 12 Current NBA Players
  • 19 Current International League Players
  • 16 NBA Coaches and Executives
  • Longest home winning streak against one opponent (59 straight home wins/Clemson)
  • Most consecutive 20-win seasons
  • Most consecutive top-three ACC finishes
  • Most 25-win seasons

Given Carolina’s amazingly consistent success, this season may not stand out at first glance. But when framed in the context of having had two subpar (for Carolina) seasons before this one, and then sustaining thrashing defeats by Tennessee, Kentucky, Miami, Wake Forest, Duke (at home), and an unexpected loss at home to a Pittsburgh team that lost more than twice as many conference games as it won, the Heels were thought at one point late in the season to be ensconced on the NCAA Bubble, and likely to miss the NCAA Tournament. Then an interesting, if not improbable, turnabout occurred. They beat Duke in Cameron Indoor Stadium in Coach Krzyzewski’s last home game. He, Duke, and ESPN has organized an epic retirement celebration and send-off to the ACC Tournament. In a victory that will live in infamy (in Durham), the Tar Heels post season life was born. The Heels were forthwith launched on an NCAA Tourney run that saw four different players lead them in scoring in their first four tournament games, all wins, including a victory of the Number 1 Seed in the East Region, last year’s Champion, Baylor.

Then, for what many fans viewed as the piece de resistance, for the first time ever in NCAA Tournament play, the 8 Seed Heels faced off against the 2 Seed Duke Blue Devils in the nightcap of the Final Four semi-finals. In a certified Instant Classic, the Heels downed Duke, ending Coach K’s season, tournament run, and career, all rolled up into one. Meanwhile, Carolina’s rookie coach, Hubert Davis, who’d never been a Collegiate Head Coach anywhere, ended what many had envisioned, if not hoped for, a 6th National Title for Duke and for Coach K, the winningest NCAA Division 1 Coach of all-time. Congratulations Coach Davis; Happy Retirement Coach K. Duke fans and Coach K will now live with the reality that rookie Hubert Davis pulled back the curtain and went 2-1 against the Great and Powerful K, and in the process, giving him and Duke two of the biggest L’s in the history of the Duke-Carolina rivalry..

Many Tar Heel fans were so ecstatic at this turn of events, that they considered Saturday night’s win their Championship. Even though for most of the season, this would have been considered an unexpected outcome, do not count me among them. While I was glad we beat Duke, happy we beat Duke twice in one year, excited we beat Duke at Cameron in K’s last home game, delighted we beat Duke in the NCAA Tourney, joyful we beat Duke in the Final Four, jubilant we ended K’s career on college basketball’s biggest stage, because after all, K, and Duke are our rival (now). Why now? Because I attended Carolina so long ago, North Carolina State was our rival. But that was a lot of years ago.

Winning a College Basketball National Championship is a considerable accomplishment. Some outstanding coaches have never come close. The inception of the Tourney was 1939. It’s been played every year but one, since then, 2020. Thanks Covid. Carolina has won 6 times, third most. Only UCLA, 11, and Kentucky, 8, have won more Titles. Duke is number 4, with 5 Titles, and Kansas is number 5, with 4 Titles, including Monday night. Undoubtedly, for some fans, their real enthusiasm comes from the stark contrast in trajectory the team made in turning around the season. That’s fair. However, just making it to the Final Four is tough. Winning two games against the best remaining four teams at the end of the year is especially challenging. However, if you make it to the Final game, odds of winning the Title are never going to be better. It is for that reason; I rue not having prevailed Monday night. However, rest assured, I am, and forever shall be a proud Tar Heel. “It’s A GDTBATH!”

I’m done; holla back!

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