Carolina Basketball's Best of the Decade: Quote, Recruiting Class, Loss and More
The 2010s are over, and with that, let’s take a look at a hodgepodge of best things to come from the Tar Heels this decade:
Best UNC team to not win a national championship: 2011-12
Six players from this team were eventually drafted by NBA franchises — Harrison Barnes (2012), Kendall Marshall (2012), John Henson (2012), Tyler Zeller (2012), Reggie Bullock (2013) and P.J. Hairston (2014).
The Tar Heels lost by just two points in the regular season against Kentucky, the eventual national champion. That year, the Wildcats had Anthony Davis, a generational talent forced to play one season of college basketball, on its roster.
And this is for those out there doubting why this team is the best to not win it all: the Tar Heels won a Sweet 16 game with Stilman White starting at point guard. People forget that.
Best player to not win a national championship: Brice Johnson
There are almost too many to list, but it ultimately falls to Johnson.
Johnson got significantly better over his four years in a Tar Heels uniform. He started his time at Carolina averaging 5.4 points and 10.6 minutes per game as a freshman in 2012-13; he ended that time averaging 17.0 points and 10.4 rebounds per game as a senior in 2015-16. He also had career highs in blocks (59), assists (58) and steals (43) during his senior season.
The Tar Heels also never fell while he was there. They advanced to the second round of the NCAA Tournament in his freshman and sophomore seasons, the third round his junior season and the national championship game in his senior season.
Best regular-season loss: Kentucky 103, UNC 100 (Dec. 17, 2016)
Malik Monk scored 47 points for the Wildcats, and the Tar Heels still lost by only three points. Monk hit a 3-pointer with 19 seconds left to give the Wildcats a 101-100 lead and De’Aaron Fox made two free throws to extend the lead to three. Kenny Williams missed a potential game-tying 3-pointer with a second left.
Justin Jackson scored 34 points while Joel Berry II contributed 23 for the Tar Heels. Carolina had five players score in double figures that night in Las Vegas and made more than 50% of its 3-point attempts.
Related: the game against Duke in 2012 at the Smith Center was in consideration — you know, the one ended by Austin Rivers — but the panel felt it best to not talk about that one.
Best NCAA Tournament loss: Villanova 77, UNC 74 (April 2, 2016)
It’s a loss, but it was a lot more than that in the long run.
Guard Marcus Paige hit a double-clutch 3-pointer with 4.7 seconds left that tied the game at 74. The game, however, ended with Kris Jenkins nailing a buzzer-beating 3-pointer over the outstretched arm of Isaiah Hicks to give the Wildcats the three-point win.
Neither team led by more than 10 points in this instant classic. Villanova was ahead 67-57 with 5:29 left in the game, which set up the wild finish to this game.
Paige and Joel Berry II combined to score 41 points — Paige 21, Berry 20 — while Brice Johnson scored 14 points and had a team-high eight rebounds.
Best recruiting class: 2014
Carolina signed only three players, but the coaching staff didn’t miss on any of the three. According to 247sports, Justin Jackson was the No. 9 player in that year’s class, Theo Pinson was No. 14 and Joel Berry II was No. 50. Those three steadily improved during their time at Carolina and played significant roles in the team’s run to the 2017 national championship.
Best Roy Williams quote
Roy Williams has never been afraid to voice his opinion. It’s who he is, and it’s part of what’s made him a great coach. This, however, isn’t limited to what takes place between four lines with a ball bouncing and a clock ticking.
In March 2017, Williams voiced his opinion on House Bill 2, a controversial law passed in 2016 that targeted transgender women and men that stated people in this state had to use the bathroom that matched the gender that was on their birth certificate. The law caused numerous organizations — including the ACC and NCAA — to either cancel events scheduled to take place in the state or move those events to other states.
Williams voiced his opinion on the law:
“It shouldn’t just be about athletic events — that’s the most important thing. It should be about what’s right and wrong,” he said. “And what we have now is wrong.”