This one had to hurt. These are the sort of losses that can linger long after the final whistle. North Carolina led by as many as 16 points in the first half of the NCAA Championship and was up 15 points at halftime only to give that away in the second half, as Kansas pulled off the biggest comeback in championship game history to grab the trophy from the Tar Heels.
The setback came 48 hours after enjoying the high of upending Duke in the national semifinals. Beating the Blue Devils twice in March, first ruining Mike Krzyzewski’s home finale and then his last tournament game, may help take some of the sting out of Monday’s collapse. But this was for the title. It had to hurt. First-year coach Hubert Davis was 20 minutes away from an unexpected national championship, a title that would have brought UNC back to the pinnacle of the sport.
I have to believe what Davis achieved in his first year and especially in tournament play sets the stage for another run at the national championship in the near future. I never thought I would be saying that after what we saw in January.
Once 12-6 overall and 4-3 in ACC play, UNC had to string together a torrid close to the regular season just to get into the tournament with an at-large bid, only getting off the bubble with five straight wins going into the conference tournament.
After beating Marquette in the first round, the Tar Heels beat defending national champion Baylor, took out another 2021 Final Four participant in UCLA and edged past Duke before running out of steam against the Jayhawks.
Davis may get the Heels back in the Final Four as soon as next season. Two vital starters may look at the NBA in guard Caleb Love and forward Armando Bacot, though neither is ranked among the top prospects in this year’s class.
Others appear to agree. The Tar Heels are ranked third in USA TODAY Sports’ early Top 25 for 2022-23.