UNC seniors Brice Johnson and Marcus Paige were both honored on Tuesday evening during the men’s basketball team end-of-year awards ceremony.
Johnson won the Dean Smith Most Valuable Player award after the forward put together one of the best seasons in UNC history. Meanwhile, guard Marcus Paige won the Defensive Player of the Year award; this marked the first time that one player won that award four times over the course of their career.
UNC was gathering to celebrate a season that saw the Tar Heels enter the year as the preseason No. 1 team in the country and eventually make a run to the national title game. Carolina had some unexpected challenges, including Paige missing the first portion of the season with a broken right hand and a shooting slump that rendered the senior lefty’s jump shot nearly unrecognizable.
Even through the shooting woes, it was clear Paige was still the leader of the team and his shooting as the season drew to a close was what both Paige and UNC fans had come to expect of him. That culminated in Paige hitting an acrobatic-double-pump three pointer to tie the national championship game against Villanova with less five seconds left in regulation. We don’t have to remind you what happened next.
Paige, from Marion, Iowa, was also the first player in UNC history to be named a permanent team captain in three seasons at Carolina. Paige also won the Tyler Zeller Award given to the team’s top scholar-athlete and the Marvin Williams Carolina Way Award for “playing hard, unselfishly and putting the team first,” on Tuesday.
Johnson, from Orangeburg, South Carolina, made a huge jump between his junior and senior seasons, becoming one of the most dominant big men in college basketball and thrusting himself into the discussion of being a lottery pick in the upcoming NBA Draft. Johnson led UNC with 17 points and 10.4 rebounds per game and led the entire Atlantic Coast Conference by shooting 61.4 percent from the field. Johnson also amassed 23 double-doubles on the season on his way to becoming a consensus first-team All-American.
Johnson, Paige and Joel James are leaving the program after exhausting their eligibility. Two other members of the team that went to the national title game – Justin Jackson and Kennedy Meeks – have entered the NBA Draft but have not hired an agent, leaving open the possibility of a return to Carolina.http://chapelboro.com/featured/johnson-and-paige-honored-at-end-of-year-ceremony
So the 2015-16 Tar Heels turned out to be a team of destiny after all…
…it just wasn’t quite the destiny we wanted.
After a year of preseason accolades, hype, doubt, and triumph, Brice and Marcus and crew stormed through the ACC tourney and ran all the way to the NCAA title game, only to come up juuust short at the hands of stupid Villanova and stupid Kris Jenkins’ stupid last-second 3.
Great game. Memorable season. Just not quite a national title.
But never fear!
I’m calling it right now: Carolina will win the NCAA championship in 2018.
How can I be so sure?
Because we’ve seen this story before.
Seventeen years before, to be precise.
Go back to 1999. March 29, St. Petersburg. Usually some interloping 3- or 4-seed sneaks into the NCAA final, but that year’s final featured undeniably the two best teams in the nation. On the one side, the Big East champion (Connecticut rather than Villanova), seeking a title after several years of coming up just short. On the other side, the ACC champ (Duke rather than UNC), seeking its first national title in…yep, exactly seven years.
It would have been the third overall for their legendary coach.
Is this sounding familiar?
Both teams brought their A games. Back and forth the whole way. Duke scored 39 first-half points and led at halftime – just like Carolina did – but UConn came back and pulled out a thrilling victory in the closing seconds.
Final score? 77-74. Yes, exactly the same as UNC-Nova. Look it up.
And two years later, Duke won the NCAA title.
So that’s it. I’m calling it. The similarities are too eerie. It can’t be coincidence, y’all. It’s got to be destiny.
Tar Heels! 2018 national champions!
(Provided the NCAA doesn’t get in the way, of course.)
And while I’m making wild predictions, don’t worry: Marcus Paige will get his NCAA title too. Twenty years from now. After he takes over for Hubert Davis as UNC’s head coach.
(Try to remember you heard it here first.)
UNC fans can come out to the Dean Smith Center on Tuesday afternoon and welcome home the North Carolina Tar Heel basketball team.
The Tar Heels lost in the national championship game 77-74 on a buzzer-beating three pointer form Villanova forward Kris Jenkins.
The team is scheduled to arrive back in Chapel Hill outside Entrance D at the Smith Center at approximately two o’clock Tuesday afternoon.
Parking will be available in the Manning, Bowles and Craige lots.
Kris Jenkins has grown into being one of the best players on a Villanova team that will be playing for the national championship on Monday night.
But Jenkins may not be on the Villanova roster right now preparing for a national championship game without his brother, who he will be playing against on Monday, Nate Britt.
The story of the brotherhood of Jenkins and Britt gained national attention when Jenkins was spotted cheering for UNC in the Elite Eight after Villanova had already advanced to the Final Four.
While the two are not brothers by blood, Britt’s parents have been Jenkins legal guardians since 2007.
“We were recruiting Nate,” Villanova head coach Jay Wright said describing the unique recruiting process that led to the Wildcats landing Jenkins. “And we liked Kris. But we just thought, you know what, he’s overweight, and he’s not going to come in and do all the stuff we do.”
Wright said that he told Jenkins that he liked his game, but things would not be easy for him if he came to Villanova.
“You’re going to have to come in here and change your diet; you’re going to have to work out hard; you’re going to have to get your body fat tested,” Wright recalled telling Jenkins. “That’s what we want you do.”
Wright said that Nate Britt Sr. later told the coaching staff that Jenkins loved what he heard in that meeting.
“And we said, to each other, ‘Hey, if he loved that, we want this guy,’” Wright remembered telling other members of the coaching staff.
Wright added that it has been impressive to watch Jenkins develop.
“He came in from day one and as a college freshman had to watch what he ate, had to get tested every morning, had to ride a bike extra to get his weight down. It’s unbelievable. And he continues to get better and better. I think you haven’t even seen the best of him yet.”
Jenkins and Britt played together in high school and have not met during their collegiate careers.
On Monday night, they will meet on the biggest of stages.http://chapelboro.com/featured/brothers-jenkins-and-britt-prepare-for-national-championship-showdown
HOUSTON – Carolina’s appearance here marks the 14th time that one Triangle Area college team has followed another to the Final Four the next year.
Fourteen times among UNC, Duke and N.C. State. Pretty amazing.
It began when Duke played in its third Final Four of the decade in 1966. The next year, Dean Smith’s Tar Heels made the first of three consecutive trips. Here are the other 13 times:
Besides great players and teams through the years, what else could be causing this ongoing game of one-upmanship?
“It could be jealousy,” Williams said this week before his team departed for Houston. “I know watching other teams having so much fun at the end of the season gets me all fired up to come back and do it ourselves the next year.”
Back in 1993, UNC senior George Lynch admitted that he spent the previous summer stewing over Duke’s consecutive conquests. And it’s more than just another team, even a conference rival, winning the NCAA title right under your nose. Duke and Carolina share the media, with the newspapers and radio-TV stations covering all of the local programs and following them into the post-season. When one of the teams loses and is out, the local coverage concentrates on the team(s) still alive. It causes some players and coaches who have lost to stop paying attention, others to take long weekends away.
The theory was that Smith got his second wind into his 60s due, at least in part, to the consistent success Duke was having. Smith and Carolina took care of that, going to five Final Fours in the 1990s and beating the Blue Devils eight of the last nine head-to-head matches before Smith retired.
And as Duke reloads its roster with another No.1-ranked recruiting class, the Blue Devils will be a favorite to go back-to-back with another local team for a 15th time in 2017.
Maybe one of these days, State will be worthy of one-upping Carolina or Duke.http://chapelboro.com/columns/sports-notebook/arts-angle-back-to-back
NANTES, France – And then, there were Four…
First, I would like to congratulate my basketball program on its awesome journey to Houston! I know just how hard the guys have worked and what an opportunity like this means to them. As always, I have been in front of my computer many times, at 3am, wrapped in blanket, muffling my cheers to a whisper as not to cause a disturbance in the building. Those nights turned into a few sick days, but having an extra bounce in my step after some big wins have made it all worth it. I’ve thoroughly enjoyed sharing my passion for Carolina with teammates and friends from all over the world.
I was blessed to experience the Final Four two years in a row, from two distinct points of view, with two very different outcomes. Reaching the 2008 Final Four in San Antonio was somewhat of a dream for us. Quentin Thomas was the only member of the team who had experienced being at a Final Four, and for the rest of us, it was quite an adjustment. We were used to being in the local and national spotlight, but the Final Four is, well, different. And 2009, of course, was an overwhelming landslide in our favor, but much in part because of our experience the year before.
The story starts, however, in 2007. Immediately after our disappointing loss to Georgetown in the Elite 8, in the locker room, we all knew that the pain we were feeling would fuel us to the Final Four the next season. It was in our minds every second from then on, and we trained harder than ever to prepare ourselves for our place in San Antonio. We defended our ACC regular season and tournament championships, while suffering just two defeats. Punching our ticket to the Final Four, in Charlotte, was a moment I will never forget. All the anger, pain, hard work and struggle pushing us to the point of an indescribable triumph. We earned our place among the last four standing.
We were buried with Final Four sweat suits, even more exclusive Jordan’s, the adulation (RW taught me that word) from half the world, and of course tracked down by the aunts and uncles we had never met until then. I remember my dad buying me a new suit, making sure I was looking sharp like Carolina always did. I’ll never forget the never-ending lights; the police escort, the camera flashes stepping off the bus at our hotel, tens of thousands more at open practice, and the blaring lights of TV cameras in the locker room. For most people who haven’t experienced it, they’ll say, “Come on man, it’s normal. They do that all time these days, especially for a team like Carolina.” And they would be right. But trust me, it’s different.
For a split second, our world was turned upside down. We had just reached one of the greatest achievements in college basketball, after waiting over a year to have our place in the Final Four, and we lost sight of the bigger picture, beyond the Final Four, beyond being ONE of the best teams that season. All that was good, but for just a moment we forgot that we wanted more than that. And in that moment, we were caught off guard by an extremely talented Kansas team. By the time we woke up, we were too far behind.
Once again, after the game, there was no doubt what would happen the next year. This time we knew exactly what to expect when we made it to the top of the mountain. What I didn’t expect was to watch the majority of the journey from the sideline. I was expecting to recover from surgery in October of 2008 in just 8-10 weeks, but my foot had different plans. When the time came to decide to redshirt, I knew that I wanted to come back for another year, but it was difficult to leave my classmates, especially because we all knew we would take the championship.
We captured another ACC regular season title, and earned another No. 1 seed in the NCAA tournament. At this point in the season, I was back to full strength and fulfilled my role as a practice player. I did my very best to create tough, game like situations for the guys to be at their best during the games. Afterward, it was easy to be the biggest supporter of my team!
Our performance in the NCAA tournament was a work of art. We were determined to destroy every team in our way. We didn’t take any chance to let off the gas, a lesson we learned the hardest way possible just a year before. As a result, we took the championship with a decisive 121-point accumulated differential over 6 games. Bittersweet? Of course, but believe me, there was a lot more sweetness than bitterness. We achieved the ultimate goal, together, as a team.
I’ll be setting my alarm earlier this Sunday morning, around 1:45 am, so there’s plenty of time to prepare breakfast before tip off. I’ll be in my usual spot, wearing my Carolina gear, but I won’t be keeping quiet!
BRING HOME THE NETS FROM HOUSTON! GO HEELS!
(Marcus Ginyard now plays professionally in France)http://chapelboro.com/columns/ginyard-final-four-is-different
The Tar Heels are headed to the Final Four in Houston. Fans can see the UNC basketball team off at 6:30 PM on Wednesday.
The team will be at Entrance D in front of the Dean Smith Center. Starting at 5 PM, parking will be available in the Williamson, Bowles and Manning Lots surrounding the Smith Center.
The Smith Center will also be home to a Final Four viewing party. Fans are invited to watch both Final Four games. Oklahoma and Villanova are scheduled to play in the first game at 6:09 PM. UNC will play Syracuse at approximately 8:49 PM.
UNC students, faculty, and staff will allowed into the Smith Center through Entrance A starting at 5 PM. The general public will be allowed through Entrance A of the Smith Center starting at 5:30 PM.
Both games will be displayed on a large projection screen and the Smith Center video boards. Concessions and Carolina merchandise will also be on sale. Parking in the Manning, Bowles, Craige and Ramshead lots will be $5.
The Carolina Basketball Museum will also be open from 9 AM until 6 PM on Saturday.
The Tar Heels punched a ticket to their 19th Final Four with a 88-74 victory over Notre Dame on Sunday.http://chapelboro.com/sports/unc-sports/unc-basketball-final-four-sendoff-set-for-wednesday
Being a basketball fan in March is fun, no matter who your team is. But when your allegiance lies with the Tar Heels, it can be nothing short of stressful.
If you haven’t had the chance to attend a weekend at the ACC or NCAA tournament, it’s a bucket list item. The energy of the arena is palpable, filled with the hopes and dreams of other teams and their fans from across the country, hoping this is their year.
Sometimes, I wonder what it would be like to cheer for a different team, a Cinderella. You don’t expect to win – you’re there to enjoy the experience, soak it all in, hoping for success and hoping that it comes around again soon. And for many, it ends almost as soon as the ink of their names is drying on the bracket.
The Tar Heels are perennial contenders – we like it this way, and sometimes are too used to that being the case. But with the expectations of being a Blue Blood powerhouse, number one seed and newly minted favorite to cut down the nets in Houston this coming weekend (thanks Kansas!), being a Carolina fan in Philadelphia was anything but easy.
Even with a regional full of brand names, the expectations can be suffocating as a fan. Win or fly home. You can feel the pins and the needles, the baited breath of every shot and every ball hanging on the rim. It’s hard for me to imagine how the players feel, knowing they feel that pressure – knowing they truly live the ramifications – good, bad or ugly.
In 2005 & 2009 it felt similar. A team with talent, size, experience and the gorilla of expectations as though this is all a gimme. As though there aren’t players from the opposition that have worked just as hard, often with less.
It takes on interesting angles as you meet people who are attending not just to watch the Heels, but to watch their kids play the game they love, or cheer from the sideline or play the fight song as the argyle takes the court. All of whom are hoping that the road leads one step further the next weekend.
It’s been far too easy for too many fans to moan and gripe about the players and coaches over the past several years. It’s been made even more difficult by an academic ‘scandal’ that most in the national media don’t understand. But for this weekend and the next, it’s been made easier, seeing the men and women who work tirelessly, late into the night, when the cameras are no longer shining brightly, to make it all possible for the Tar Heels.
Seeing their tears, their smiles and sheer joy as the clock hit zero should serve as a reminder of what it takes to become great and stay that way.
When the clock hit zeroes this weekend, you could feel the love in Philadelphia – the tears and pain of a difficult few years melted away, even if for a little while.
Yet, it was the fans and the media that immediately jumped to thinking about what’s next. It took all of three questions at the post game press conference for the first reporter to ask about the Final Four matchup. For a team that more than deserves a coup de gras, they’ll get a shot to address that in Houston.
But sometimes, despite our stress, excitement and anticipation of what could still be to come, it’s important that we listen to those who live it every day. “We’re going to enjoy this one, first.”
From Sweet to Elite, this Tar Heel team is an incredible reminder that, as fans, we need some perspective. Enjoying the moment is something we do far too infrequently as humans, and especially as fans of the Boys in Blue.
Enjoy the rarity of the four-year student-athlete that is the foundation of this team. Enjoy this Ride to Houston. It’s already been fun.
Ryan Watts is a 2012 graduate of the Carolina where he studied political science and business. He currently works as a Consultant for Deloitte and is the co-founder and CEO of Toast Digital, INC., a social and digital media company helping restaurants and the hospitality industry grow. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org://chapelboro.com/columns/sweet-elite-in-the-city-of-brotherly-love
Stanford has hired former UNC assistant coach Jerod Haase as their head coach.
“Stanford University is a world-class institution which represents excellence across the board,” said Haase in a statement released by Stanford. “We will compete for championships by doing it the right way and graduating young men who will go on to accomplish great things in the world.”
Haase left Chapel Hill in 2012 to take over as the head coach at the University of Alabama-Birmingham.
UAB made it to the NCAA Tournament in 2015, shocking No. 3 seed Iowa State, 60-59, in the second round for the Blazers’ first NCAA victory since 2005.
He finished the 2015-16 season with a 26-7 record, losing in the first round of the NIT to BYU.
Haase played for UNC head coach Roy Williams for three years when Williams was at Kansas.
He eventually joined Williams’ staff and follow him to Chapel Hill before accepting the job at UAB.
Stanford finished 15-15 this season.
Brice Johnson has been hearing about his defense for years.
From high school when he was coached by his father and now at Carolina with Roy Williams, Johnson has always heard about his defense, or lack thereof.
“I saw him play in high school,” Williams said. “His dad stayed on his case too. I mean he didn’t walk over there and hug his dad in timeouts, I guaran-daggum-tee you that. His dad got after his rear end too.”
And sometimes he hears it from both sides at once.
“I’ll yet out something to Brice and there’s been two or three times in 30 seconds when his dad will yell out the same daggum thing,” Williams said. “It’s funny because I can hear his voice. You know if Beyonce came behind me I wouldn’t know who the crap she was.”
But after two strong defensive performances in the first two rounds of the NCAA Tournament, including the game against Florida Gulf Coast when he had eight blocks, there’s no question Johnson has come a long way defensively.
While Williams still wants more out of his star forward, it’s hard to deny his play so far.
“There is something to be said for blocking shots,” he said. “And there is something to be said for defensive rebounds that are more important than getting down in a pretty stance and denying.”
The Tar Heels will get to see just how far Johnson has come defensively when they face an Indiana team that averages more points per game than anyone they’ve seen so far this season.
The Hoosiers are led by senior point guard Yogi Farrell, who was named to both the All-Big Ten first team and defensive team.
Johnson will likely match up with freshman center Thomas Bryant, who averages 12 points per game and has the third highest field goal percentage in the country.
Although he doesn’t do it much, just fourteen attempts this season, Bryant can even step out to the three point line, shooting 35 percent beyond the arc.
But for anyone who thinks Johnson isn’t up for the challenge, he has one thing to say.
“We’ve got a lot of people who say we’re underdogs in a lot of games,” Johnson said. “We proved them wrong so keep calling us underdogs and we’ll just keep proving you wrong.”http://chapelboro.com/sports/unc-sports/brice-johnson-ready-to-prove-how-far-hes-come