UNC Basketball: A special run comes to an end

Regardless of how the season came to a close, the 2023-2024 UNC basketball program left us with memories that will last a lifetime.

NCAA Men's Basketball Tournament  - Practice Day - West Regional
NCAA Men's Basketball Tournament - Practice Day - West Regional / Ronald Martinez/GettyImages

It's safe to say that all UNC basketball fans woke up at least a little sad on Friday morning.

Sure, losing to Alabama in the Sweet 16 is one that will sting for quite some time, but there's a much bigger reason why the sadness has kicked in for Tar Heel faithful.

A group, that has created such a special bond, has taken the court together for the final time.

We all know how frustrating the 2022-2023 season was. From preseason No. 1 to not even making the NCAA Tournament, it was a frustrating year in Chapel Hill that fans want to desperately forget. In hopes of turning things around quickly, Hubert Davis and his staff put together a roster that had plenty of potential to get North Carolina basketball back to its normal standard.

From early on, even before the season started, Davis talked about how much this team likes to be around each other. Sure, every coach in the country is going to rave that their team is connected, but Davis wasn't lying when he said that this team clicked and how much they've grown together as more than just a team.

The collection of players varies: from returners who had some unfinished business to a mix of transfers and incoming freshmen, the group featured plenty of different personalities. However, for some reason it gelled nicely together, as they became enjoyable to watch both on and off the court.

As interesting as it was to see what song the "Boom Box Boys" would play on their way to the court before each game, actually watching them compete together as one was something that was very special in its own right.

From the magical senior season from RJ Davis to the continued dominance of Armando Bacot, it felt as if every player had at least one shining moment throughout the season. Who could forget Cormac Ryan's insane performance in Durham against Duke or Harrison Ingram giving the "too small" gesture to defenders after he scored against them.

Emotions were high on Thursday night after the game and rightly so: these student-athletes have been working hard together for months to get to this point. Although they fell short of their goals, this was certainly not a lost season by any means, as Carolina Basketball was back for all of us to enjoy.

Some banners will be hung in the Dean Smith rafters to recognize the success, as we'll all visit Chapel Hill at some point and will say, "I miss watching that team. That group was special."

The hard part about all of this is, what's next? I don't know about you, but knowing that UNC basketball was taking the floor gave me something to look forward to, and now that it's over, I find myself waiting for tip-off to begin the new season this fall.

Things will certainly look different, as this will be the first time in quite some time that Armando Bacot doesn't suit up for the Tar Heels. There will no longer be Cormac Ryan's energy after a three-point field goal, and we may have ultimately seen the last of both RJ Davis and Harrison Ingram in Carolina Blue as well.

There will be time to worry about all of that later. For now, as we all grieve the loss, take some time to remember all the special moments that this group provided us with in just a short amount of time.

They made our lives better while creating a family bond that they'll carry with them for a very long time.

It's ALWAYS a great day to be a Tar Heel, as we should all remember:

Don't cry because it's over. Smile because it happened.

Next. UNC Basketball comes up short against Alabama in the Sweet 16. UNC Basketball comes up short against Alabama in the Sweet 16. dark