North Carolina Tar Heels Greatest March Madness Moments
The North Carolina Tar Heels hold one of the richest legacies in the history of college basketball. This is especially true when it comes to their illustrious past in the NCAA Men's Basketball Tournament, also affectionately known as March Madness. In fact, only a select few programs can rival the Tar Heels' vast accomplishments in postseason play. No other team in the history of college basketball has more Final Four appearances (18) than North Carolina. UNC also holds the record for the most consecutive NCAA Tournament appearances (27). The Tar Heels rank second in total NCAA Tournament appearances (46), second in all-time tournament wins (112), fourth in national championship game appearances (9) and third all-time with five national titles to their credit.
The 2016 NCAA Tournament is officially set to start on March 15, which means March Madness is just around the corner. The Tar Heels are once again poised to make another legendary run. So, with that in mind, we thought we would take a look back at 10 of the greatest moments in UNC March Madness history.
— Written by Rob McVey, who is part of the Athlon Contributor Network. Follow him on Twitter @Rob_UTVOLS.
1946 UNC's First NCAA Tournament Victory
There is no time quite like the first time. A 57-49 victory over NYU in New York on March 21, 1946 would become the very first of many victories to come for North Carolina in “The Big Dance.” The Tar Heels would eventually go on to play for the national championship, narrowly missing out on their first NCAA title, losing to Oklahoma State by a score of 43-40. They finished the season with a record of 30-5 and enjoyed the first of March Madness, even though the term was still decades away from being coined.
1990 Midwest Regional 2nd Round vs. Oklahoma
There are not too many examples of North Carolina getting an opportunity to play the role of spoiler in the NCAA Tournament, but on March 17, 1990 they did just that. The eighth-seeded Tar Heels entered the Round of 32 in the 1990 NCAA Tournament as obvious underdogs against top-seeded Oklahoma. Thanks to a last-second Rick Fox bank shot, UNC was able to knock off the Sooners 79-77 to advance to the Sweet 16. Carolina would go on to lose to eventual Midwest Regional champion Arkansas, but the buzzer-beater upset over Oklahoma is still fondly remembered as one of UNC’s greatest March Madness moments.
2009 Record 18th Final Four and 100th Tournament Win
The 2008-09 season would serve as a banner year for the Tar Heels. One of the biggest moments of the season would come on March 29, 2009 in the Regional Final against Oklahoma. The Tar Heels' 72-60 win over the Sooners would mark their 100th victory in NCAA Tournament play. The victory also would help the Heels advance to an NCAA-record 18th Final Four appearance. It's a mark that still stands. Most of you probably already know what would eventually become of the 2009 Tar Heels, but in case you do not, it will become evident as this list moves forward.
1957 Final Four
The Tar Heels had one of their more magical runs in 1957, as the national semifinal game against Michigan State is widely regarded as one of the all-time greatest games in NCAA Tournament history. The undefeated Tar Heels would need a last-second jump shot from Pete Brennan to extend an epic battle against the Spartans into a second overtime. The game would eventually require a third overtime. North Carolina would ultimately take a 74-70 victory and advance to the 1957 national championship game against Kansas.
Dean Smith Gets Win No. 877
On March 15, 1997, a North Carolina team, led by Vince Carter, Rasheed Wallace and Antawn Jamison, would defeat the Colorado Buffaloes by a score of 73-56 in the second round of the NCAA Tournament to advance to the Sweet 16. More importantly, the milestone victory also marked the legendary Dean Smith’s 877th career win as a head coach, passing Kentucky's Adolph Rupp for first place on the all-time list. The 1996-97 Tar Heels would advance to the Final Four where they would lose to eventual national champion Arizona in what would be Smith’s last game as UNC head coach. Smith retired with 879 career wins, which currently ranks fourth all-time.
2009 National Championship
The 2009 top-seeded Tar Heels, led by Tyler Hansbrough, Ty Lawson and eventual Final Four Most Outstanding Player Wayne Ellington, would go on one of the more dominant runs in NCAA Tournament history. A run that ultimately culminated in the Tar Heels winning their fifth national championship, beating the Michigan State Spartans by a score of 89-72 on April 6, 2009. UNC's most recent national title, it was Roy Williams' second as the Tar Heels' head coach.
2005 National Championship
The 2004-05 Tar Heels squad, led by Raymond Felton, Rashad McCants and Sean May would dodge a couple of bullets to make its way to their first Final Four since 2000. After knocking off Michigan State with ease in the semifinals, North Carolina also would go on to defeat the Tournament favorite and No. 1 overall seed Illinois by a score of 75-70 to take home their fourth national championship. May would earn Final Four Most Outstanding Player honors, helping head coach Roy Williams win his first national title.
1993 National Championship
The 1993 national championship was one of the more hyped games in NCAA Tournament history, and it did not disappoint, that is unless you were a big fan of Michigan’s “Fab 5” at the time. The Tar Heels, led by Eric Montross, George Lynch and Tournament MVP Donald Williams, would go on to win their third national title by defeating the favored Wolverines by a score of 77-71. This game is probably best remembered as the “Timeout game," as Michigan’s Chris Webber called a timeout with 11 seconds remaining, down by just two points. The problem was, Michigan had no timeouts remaining, resulting in a technical foul that would help seal the deal for the Tar Heels. This game would also serve as Dean Smith’s second and final national championship.
1982 National Championship
North Carolina’s 1982 national championship team, stacked with legendary players such as Sam Perkins, James Worthy and Michael Jordan, would go on to play in one of the greatest games in college basketball history. A potent Georgetown team, led by Patrick Ewing and “Sleepy” Floyd, would take a 62-61 lead against the Tar Heels late in the game before a freshman named Jordan hit the game-winning jumper with just 15 seconds remaining. Georgetown’s Fred Brown would mistakenly throw the ball to Worthy on the ensuing inbound play, and UNC dribbled out the clock, giving the Heels a 63-62 victory and their first national title since 1957. It was the first of two national championships for iconic Tar Heels head coach Dean Smith.
1957 National Championship
Many will argue that the Tar Heels’ 1982 national championship was their greatest moment in NCAA Tournament history, and those folks would have a pretty strong case. That being said, UNC’s 1957 run to the nationalt tile was absolutely epic to put it mildly. The Tar Heels, led by Lennie Rosenbluth, would have to survive back-to-back triple overtime games in order to be crowned the ’57 champs. First by narrowly defeating Michigan State 74-70 in the semifinals game, then by beating a powerhouse Kansas team, led by the great Wilt Chamberlain, by a score of 54-53 in the title game. Frank McGuire's 1956-57 Tar Heels would become just one of seven teams to finish the season undefeated, sporting a perfect 32-0 record and a national title.