Can we officially say that UNC Basketball Is "Back"?

The UNC Basketball program has went through some "down" years recently. After nine straight victories, can we officially say the Tar Heels are back?

Wake Forest v North Carolina
Wake Forest v North Carolina / Grant Halverson/GettyImages
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For most college basketball programs, a Final Four run once every 20 years or so would be considered a success. Even a 20-win season every so often. That isn't the case in Chapel Hill for the UNC Basketball program, though. The standard is different. So when we say the Tar Heels have been through some "down years" since 2019, it's in perspective for the program and not the college basketball landscape.

Since the conclusion of the 2018-19 season that ended with a Sweet Sixteen loss to Auburn, the program was 81-53 heading into this season, but with some disappointing seasons. In 2019-2020, North Carolina finished 14-19 and would have missed the NCAA Tournament had COVID not made the world standstill. The following year was 18-11 with a first-round exit to Wisconsin in Roy Williams final year.

Then the Hubert Davis Era began. The Tar Heels began the season 18-8, but on February 16th when they dropped a home game to Pittsburgh, were sitting on the wrong side of the NCAA Tournament bubble. Then that team got really hot at exactly the right time, reeling off six straight victories, including beating Duke in Coach K's final home game.

That run helped secure the Tar Heels a No. 8-seed in the NCAA Tournament and they continued their hot streak, riding it to the National Championship. Now, you're probably thinking, was a program ever really "down" if it has a National Championship appearance? For North Carolina, yes.

The Tar Heels then were pre-season No. 1 in 2022-2023 and failed to miss the NCAA Tournament for what would have been the second time in four seasons.

There were plenty of questions surrounding Hubert Davis when he was hired to fill the shoes of legendary UNC Basketball coach Roy Williams. After the loss to the Panthers in mid-February 2022, there were even more questions. The seat felt like it was getting warm at the end of the 2023 season after missing the tournament.

Now Davis has the Tar Heels up to No. 3 in the country in the most recent AP Poll, their highest ranking since that 2018-19 season, and riding a nine-game win streak, including an 8-0 start in ACC play.

So, is the UNC Basketball program officially back to its standard of basketball?

The Tar Heels are playing "Carolina Basketball" in the way that UNC Basketball fans have grown up watching the program forever. North Carolina has always put an emphasis on attacking in transition and out-rebounding their opponent.

However, Hubert Davis has this team doing it in the middle of the season and constantly improving. This year feels like watching a vintage Roy Williams team that is always improving, always getting better throughout the season, and yet, it still feels like they haven't played their best basketball of the season. That was how Williams always coached. Develop and improve the team so that they are playing their best in March. Could we be trending in that direction under Davis?

The 2023-2024 Tar Heels have held all eight ACC opponents to fewer than 70 points, playing defense at an elite level and one of the best performances we've ever seen from a UNC Basketball team. The nine game win streak is the best winning streak since the program won 11 in a row that carried over from the six games to win the 2017 National Championship and five games to begin the 2018 season.

They have also won their last seven ACC games by ten or more points, and it is the first time since 1993 that has happened.

Is this just a coincidence? Is this team just that good? Or is Hubert Davis setting the tone and getting the UNC Basketball program back to its standard? Not only does he have the Tar Heels winning on the court, he is winning off the court as well.

He brought in one of the best transfer recruiting classes this past off-season, with Harrison Ingram and Cormac Ryan leading the charge. He was able to recruit Elliot Cadeau to re-classify from the Class of 2024, and now Cadeau is the main facilitator on the offensive end of the floor. Next year's recruiting class is currently ranked seventh by 247Sports with just a three-man class, with two of the three being ranked in the top 10.

There still may be a long way to go and fans may still want to see them win some big games, but after a 16-3 start this season, a No. 3 AP ranking and an 8-0 start in ACC play, it is safe to say that Hubert Davis and the UNC Basketball program are getting back to their roots of North Carolina basketball.

So, can we say that UNC Basketball is back? Did they ever really leave? Well, that is for you to decide. One thing is for sure though: No team is asking to see this year's Tar Heels in their bracket come Selection Sunday.

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