A look back at 2 UNC teams we didn’t think would make the Final Four


The North Carolina Tar Heels are on their way to a record 19th Final Four, with just the Syracuse Orange separating them from a chance at the title.

Their most recent trip to the Final Four was in 2009 led by Wayne Ellington (Most Outstanding Player), Danny Green, Tyler Hansbrough and Tywon Lawson. That team delivered Roy Williams’ second NCAA title by defeating Michigan State.

There have been a couple of past UNC basketball teams that exceeded the expectations of many people by making the Final Four. Let’s take a look at these teams that defied the odds and earned a trip to the Final Four.

2000 North Carolina Tar Heels

This team shocked the world when they made the 2000 Final Four joining Michigan State, Florida and Wisconsin.

North Carolina finished the regular season with a dismal 18-13 record and barely made the tournament. This was Bill Gutheridge’s third season as head coach of the Tar Heels taking over for the legendary Dean Smith. North Carolina was led by Jason Capel, Ed Cota, Joseph Forte (freshman), Brendan Haywood, Kris Lang and Julius Peppers.

After the NCAA committee made Carolina a No. 8 seed in the South region, it was understood that they had a tough road to the Final Four.

In the first round, Carolina defeated the No. 9 seed, Missouri Tigers. Missouri was coached by former Duke guard, Quin Snyder, as the Tar Heels dispatched them easily. Carolina’s Brendan Haywood led the Tar Heels with 28 points and 13 rebounds. Jason Capel had 14 points and Forte finished the game with 13 points.

In the second round, the Tar heels faced the overall No. 1 seed in the tournament Stanford and pulled off the big upset 60-53. Stanford was led by Casey Jacobsen, the Collins’ twins (Jason Collins and Jarron Collins) and Mark Madsen. Carolina held Jacobsen to five points (made two of his 12 field goals). Forte led Carolina with 17 points and five rebounds, while Cota had seven points, 10 assists and seven rebounds.

After their shocking upset, the Tar Heels began to click.

Joseph Forte_Mike Miller
North Carolina defeated No. 4 seed Tennessee, 74-69 behind Forte’s 22 points and five rebounds. This victory was followed by beating the No. 7 seed Tulsa, 59-55 with Forte leading all scorers with 28 points and eight rebounds. /

In the Final Four, North Carolina ran into the eventual runner-up, the Florida Gators. Florida had a plethora of talent from top to bottom including Teddy Dupay, Udonis Haslem, Donnell Harvey, Mike Miller, Brett Nelson and Kenyon Weaks. UNC lost to Florida, 71-59 ending their season. Haywood led Carolina with 20 points and 12 rebounds while Forte had 15 points and five rebounds.

This game was the Gutheridge’s last game as North Carolina’s head coach. UNC hired former Tar Heel basketball player, Matt Doherty as head coach. He coached at UNC until the current head coach Roy Williams was hired in 2003.

The 1995 North Carolina Tar Heels

This North Carolina team had an impressive season finishing 24-5. During the regular season, they were tied for first place in the ACC conference with Virginia, Wake Forest and Maryland. UNC head coach Dean Smith maintained a six to seven man rotation, at best. Carolina’s starting lineup consisted of Dante Calabria, Jeff McInnis, Jerry Stackhouse, Rasheed Wallace and Donald Williams (1993 Most Outstanding Player). Pierce Landry, Shammond Williams and Serge Zwikker played in some games during this season.

Calabria was one of the top three-point shooters in the nation this season. He connected on 49.6% of his three-point field goals. Stackhouse was a first-team all-American and Wallace was a second-team all-American in 1995. Both players were top five picks in the 1995 NBA Draft. McInnis was an underrated point guard who was solid on both ends of the floor. Williams was the Most Outstanding Player of the 1993 national championship two years earlier.

With all of this success, the North Carolina Tar Heels were not picked by many critics to make it to the Final Four. They were placed in a tough Southeast bracket that included the Kentucky Wildcats as the No. 1 seed. To add insult to injury, Kentucky beat their first three opponents in the NCAA Tournament (Mount St. Mary’s, Tulane, Arizona State) by an average of 30.6 points. Kentucky had a slightly better record than Carolina (25-4) and they were coached by Rick Pitino.

When Kentucky and Carolina faced each other in the Elite Eight in 1995, the Tar Heels won 74-61. Although UNC won by 13 points, they had to overcome several leads by Kentucky. Kentucky pressed Carolina and caused several early turnovers. At the beginning of the game, Carolina’s Wallace and Kentucky’s Andre Riddick got involved in a brief altercation. Technical fouls were given to each player and Kentucky’s Walter McCarty, who was trying to intervene. /

After Kentucky took an early 13-5 lead, Carolina settled down and led at halftime 34-31. UNC’s Wallace did not score in the first half. In the second half, Carolina led the entire way.

Stackhouse led Carolina with 18 points, 12 rebounds and six assists. Williams had 18 points and four rebounds. Wallace finished with 12 points (all in second half) and three rebounds. Kentucky’s Tony Delk had 19 points, four rebounds, three assists and four steals to led his team.

The 1995 NCAA Final Four consisted of North Carolina, Oklahoma State, UCLA and Arkansas. In the national semifinals, North Carolina lost to Arkansas 75-68. In this game, Calabria missed all eight of his three-point field goals and finished the game for a total of two points. Williams led Carolina with 19 points and six rebounds. Stackhouse had 18 points and six rebounds. Wallace scored 10 points and grabbed 10 rebounds. McInnis had 13 points, seven rebounds and three assists. Corliss Williamson led Arkansas with 21 points and 10 rebounds. UCLA went on to beat Arkansas for the national championship.