Rank ‘Em: Best Decades of Tar Heel Basketball Since 1950

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#2 – 1980’s

I would say in the 1980’s the Tar Heels took the next step up in the national media. The one thing Dean Smith had not done up to this decade was win the big one. He took over the team in 1961 and had accomplished everything a coach could accomplish except the national title. He almost had it again in 1981 when the team lost to the Indiana Hoosiers 63-50 in the championship game led by Bobby Knight and Isiah Thomas.

Coach Smith won his first national title the following season when the Tar Heels defeated Georgetown 63-62 in the title game thanks to one of the first signature moments of Michael Jordan’s career. The team didn’t miss an NCAA tournament in the 80’s and advanced to at least the Sweet 16 of the NCAA Tournament for nine straight years (1981-1989). The Tar Heels became a staple of NCAA basketball and success in the 1980’s during a time when it was a big deal if a player left after even two years in college.

10 NCAA tournament appearances (1980-1989)
2 Final Fours (1981 & 1982)
1 National Championship (1982)
1 National Runner-Up (1981)
3 ACC tournament championships (1981 & 1982, 1989)
5 ACC regular season championships (1982-1985, 1987 & 1988)
281 victories

1 National POY & ACC POYMichael Jordan (1984)

Retired numbers
#23 – Michael Jordan (1981-1984)
#52 – James Worthy (1979-1982)

NBA Alumni (11): Dudley Bradley (1980-1989), Mike O’Koren (1981-1988), Rich Yonakor (1982), Al Wood (1982-1987), James Worthy (1983-1994), Sam Perkins (1985-2001), Michael Jordan (1985-2003), Brad Daugherty (1987-1994), Joe Wolf (1988-1999), Kenny Smith (1988-1997), Dave Popson (1989-1992)