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Tough Times In Chapel Hill

It’s a tough year for the Heels but elite programs usually bounce back

Georgia Tech v North Carolina
A clearly unhappy Roy Williams makes a point to freshman guard Jeremiah Francis

It’s uncharitable to pick on a neighbor or associate when they’re struggling. Members of most sports programs, and most fans, should know that ill-fate stalks us all, and that glorying in others’ misfortunes only demonstrates our short-sightedness and tempts fate.

So, as ACC fans watch mighty North Carolina men’s basketball unravel this season, or at least try to regain its footing in search of customary excellence, the wise thing to do is seek perspective.

Things could be worse, and have been occasionally at Chapel Hill.

Injuries, recruiting missteps, sudden roster fluctuations, and simple bad bounces can lay low any squad. This year UNC has suffered all of those woes, and its record reflects that. Through 18 games, counting its second overtime defeat in three outings, Carolina is 8-10, 1-6 in the ACC.

Not that long ago – OK, 20 years – the Tar Heels lost four in a row, three in the league, at mid-January. Fans and media savants flew into a frenzy. The acumen of coach Bill Guthridge, the long-time Dean Smith lieutenant who’d already taken his first team to the 1998 Final Four, was heatedly questioned.

Yet all was not lost: the ’00 Heels went on to finish tied for third place in the ACC at 9-7, guards Ed Cota and Joseph Forte made second team All-ACC, and the team reached the Final Four.

We concede that group was better than its 2020 successor. But, assuming Cole Anthony returns, Roy Williams’ squad should resume its competitiveness. The freshman guard is not apt to work miracles. He’s not a luminous all-around, instant talent like, say, Kyrie Irving in 2011, or even Coby White in 2019, as anyone knows who saw Anthony perform in UNC’s first nine games.

And he’s almost certainly not going to lift the ’20 unit to a Final Four or even an NCAA bid.

With Anthony in the lineup alongside Garrison Brooks, who’s enjoying an All-ACC season, the Heels can resume winning with regularity. Yet, with 13 league games yet to go; a pair of games remaining against each of its neighborhood rivals, NC State and Duke; not to mention road trips to Florida State and Louisville, North Carolina figures to slide within hailing distance of Matt Doherty’s 2002 squad for the most ACC defeats in school history.

UNC Seasons With Most ACC Defeats
Year ACC Record ACC Finish Teams in ACC
2002 4-12 7th, 3-way tie 9
2010 5-11 9th, 3-way tie 12
2003 6-10 6th, 2-way tie 9
2004 8-8 5th 9
1964 6-8 5th 8
2018 11-7 3rd 15
2015 11-7 5th 15
1962 7-7 4th, 2-way tie 8
1992 9-7 3rd 9
2000 9-7 3rd,2-way tie 9