I’m sure you’ve heard by now about “the shot” seen all across the nation that robbed Franklin Street if their sixth national title.
We saw internet trolls get ruthless with the memes of Carolina players laughing at these hoopers misery for an entire year. The crying Jordan memes were relentless it was impossible for one to avoid the slander in our social media age. Vilanova’s Kris Jenkins would serve as a folk hero to millions of Heels haters nationwide because his buzzer beater from deep was legendary.
Roy and the Boys took the defeat hard it was an emotional year they’d lost out on top recruits while battling a NCAA investigation. Critics stated outlandish things like “Roy was washed up” and “Carolina’s players are old and underachieve” the ‘09 title seemed buried in the past. Program pillars Brice Johnson and Marcus Paige had graduated and left to pursue NBA dreams if the Heels were gonna make it back to the game’s biggest stage they were going to have to give more.
In the offseason, this squad came back motivated with one thing in mind “Get back to Monday night.” that served as one of the team slogans this year. Duke was the early favorite with their mega-freshman class blended in with established talent. Winning and taking claim of the deepest conference in college basketball wouldn’t be an easy task, but the Heels had the pieces in place to make a run.
Joel Berry took a significant step forward in his sophomore campaign and was the best player on the floor for the Heels in the 2016 title game. Justin Jackson tested the NBA draft waters but decided to return for one more go at redemption, and the move paid off he improved dramatically on his three points shooting the only hole in his game. This duo led the Heels brilliantly Berry was one of the best floor generals in the nation all year he made big shots in clutch moments, Jackson was on a new level he earned ACC POY as Carolina’s number one scoring option.
Once they claimed the ACC regular season title, the first goal was achieved on the redemption tour. A disappointing conference tournament exit to bitter rival Duke allowed the haters to start chirping again. The ultimate goal wouldn’t be sacrificed for temporary satisfaction though all attention was on getting to Phoenix.
This squad was battle tested they drew the region of death and had to push and fight their way out of the South region. Isaiah Hicks and glue man Theo Pinson stepped up when called upon.
The youngsters overshadowed by the hype of their ACC counterparts stepped up sophomore Luke Maye became a solidified Chapel Thrill legend after he put the dagger in Kentucky. Freshman Tony Bradley grew up fast and performed well when he was called on the big looks like Unc’s next star in the paint.
Oregon pushed the Heels to the limit in the final four and missed free throws late in the contest almost ended the redemption tour early. Ultimately Roy’s team wouldn’t be denied they stayed aggressive and stuck to the same strategy as always dominate the boards.
It’s rare a team gets a second crack at a national title, so the most had to be made of this opportunity. Gonzaga was a worthy opponent the term mid-major was out the window this was the tournament’s top overall seed and a real offensive juggernaut. Mark Few built this roster with high-profile transfers and a couple of uber talented freshmen. The Bulldogs were on their mission to prove they could indeed hang with college basketball’s elite. This team had broken program barriers just making it to this point, but they knew one game still had to be played.
In the first half things couldn’t have gone worse for the Carolina blue they shot horrible missing every three-point attempt. They trailed and knew there wasn’t any way in hell they would ever live down losing the big game twice. Roy Williams the great motivator he is fired the Heels up at halftime and in the second they turnt up. After back to back forced turnovers Unc snatched the lead along with the momentum.
It was back and forth these proud programs pushed one another to the brink until only one was left standing. When the final horn sounded Unc was left standing to cut down the nets. Everyone who once doubted them was silenced, and all their demons were exorcised, we were all reminded how great Williams is as a coach he claimed his third championship.
The program and supporters will enjoy the moment and the history they’ve made on the redemption tour after falling short last year. As for the future, we don’t know everyone who all will stay and go assistant CB McGrath has departed for a head coaching job at Unc Wilmington.
Jackson, Berry, Hicks, and Kennedy Meeks will all be graduating or presumably throwing their names in the June draft. It will take a lot to replace that level of production, but there will be some solid blocks to rebuild with.