It wasn’t pretty, but the Tar Heels came through and won title number six. Roy Williams now one of only six coaches with three or more titles.
This championship is so satisfying for UNC fans because it was 364 days in the making. Kris Jenkins broke our hearts exactly one year ago today. It was great to see him sitting their last night, cheering on his brother, Nate Britt.
You could see this possibly happening early in the season. UNC went out to Maui and dominated the tournament in November. Meeks played like he did Saturday and they beat some good teams including Wisconsin. They got their doors blown off visiting Indiana, which raised some questions, but showed their mettle in a one-point loss to Kentucky in December.
There were a few hiccups in the ACC. They dropped easy games against Georgia Tech and Miami, but beat the best in the conference and won it outright at 13-5. Thr ACC Tournament ended prematurely when they played a Duke team that finally played to its potential.
And then they fought their way through the tournament. After a blowout in their first game, they pulled of a big escape against Arkansas. They handled Butler with relative ease, but needed some heroics from Luke Maye when Malik Monk almost beat them a second time. And finally they survived Oregon and Gonzaga to put the memories of last year to rest.
This championship validates Roy Williams approach to recruiting. He won’t guarantee anything to incoming recruits, so UNC misses out on the top one-and-done type players. Instead, Williams builds a program that can emphasize certain talents, but also develop them. Anyone who watched Kennedy Meeks as a freshman lumbering up and down the court has to be amazed at what four years of college did to revolutionize his game.
And now the Tar Heels will see a real change in their lineup. Meeks and Hicks are graduating along with Britt and White. Jackson will almost certainly leave for the NBA and Tony Bradley could too. But Joel Berry and Theo Pinson will be back to lead next year’s team, and new faces will emerge to replace the departed. But we will always remember and cherish this squad.