My “Blast From The Past” column is back. I wanted to pay homage to the Carolina teams from past years. All of the players and coaches,who have been a part of UNC’s basketball program, have contributed to the continued success bestowed on all us; us being Tar Heel Nation. There will be several blogs discussing the top 20 teams in UNC history. My criteria for this list had several factors: number of wins and losses, quality of wins and losses, whether the team won an NCAA championship, whether the team won an ACC championship, Naismith/Wooden Player of the Year Award winners on roster, all-ACC honors, and so on. Now, let’s get to the nitty gritty:
20) UNC 2000 (Tie) – UNC 2000 was mediocre team throughout this season. This team was led by freshman phenom, Joseph Forte. His supporting cast of Jason Capel, Ed Cota, Brendan Haywood, Kris Lang, and Julius Peppers, helped Carolina earn a spot in the 2000 Final Four as a number eight seed. In the following season (2000-2001), Jason Capel and Brendan Haywood recorded triple doubles in separate games. Although this Carolina squad finished the regular season at 18-13, they still swept N.C. State which counts for something; that is, if you are a Tar Heel fan and you reside in North Carolina.
UNC 2012 - The only reason why UNC 2012 is a tie with UNC 2000 is due to the fact that last year’s team at Carolina went to two consecutive Elite 8′s in addition to having three first team all-conference players. UNC 2012 was loaded with talent. This team featured arguably the best point guard in college basketball in Kendall Marshall (#2 in assists in the nation), 2012 ACC Player of the Year in Tyler Zeller, and 2012 Defensive Player of the Year in John Henson. If Kendall Marshall would not have sustained an injury in the 2012 NCAA Tournament against Creighton, then Carolina might’ve been cutting down the nets in April instead of Kentucky.
19) UNC 1967 – This team was the first team that the legendary Dean Smith coached that went to the Final Four. In fact, this year marked the first of three consecutive Final Four berths for the University of North Carolina. Charles “Charlie” Scott was a member of this team as a freshman; however, he could not play due to a rule imposed by the NCAA that freshmen could not play “varsity” basketball. Scott was the first Black scholarship athlete for the University of North Carolina. Notable players on the 1967 roster were Dick Grubar, Bob Lewis, Bill Bunting (former UNC football coach), Rusty Clark, and Larry Miller. Larry Miller was the ACC Player of the Year in 1967. This North Carolina team loss to the Dayton Flyers in the Final Four, which was located in Louisville, Kentucky.
18) UNC 1997 – This squad was led by Antawn Jamison, who was the heart and soul of this team. Other standouts on this team were Shammond Williams, Vince Carter, Ademola Okulaja, freshman point guard Ed Cota, and Serge Zwikker. Carolina started the conference schedule 0-3, but they regrouped and gained they composure. The 1997 Tar Heels won the ACC Tournament. In addition, they had an impressive run to the Final Four where they loss to the eventual national champion, the Arizona Wildcats who were led by Mike Bibby. Carter and Jamison provided Tar Heel Nation with numerous highlight reels during this season. One of the highlights during this season was when Vince Carter dunked on Tim Duncan (Wake Forest) in the Dean Dome. This same game was a come-from-behind win where Carolina had a deficit that was over 10 points. 1997 also marked the second consecutive year that Antawn Jamison was first team all-conference. This was also the last season that Dean Smith was the head coach of the North Carolina Tar Heels.
17) UNC 1987 – UNC 1987 was the pre-season #1 ranked NCAA basketball team in the nation. This team was led by senior combo guard Kenny “The Jet” Smith (NBA basketball analyst) and freshman phenom, J.R. Reid. During the 1986-1987 season, Reid was one of very few freshman basketball players that Dean Smith started. J.R. scored 31 points and 13 rebounds in a Sweet 16 game against Notre Dame, who beat Carolina 60-58 during the regular season. One notable statistic about this Carolina squad is that they were undefeated in conference play during the regular season. Despite this accolade, UNC lost to N.C. State in the ACC Tournament Championship game, 68-67. Some people consider UNC”s 1987 team as a potential champion of they did not lose to Syracuse in the Elite 8. Their record was 32-4.