UNC wins their 6th national championship
Anthony Cittadino, Sports Editor
The University of North Carolina hung their sixth national championship banner with their electrifying 71-65 win over the Gonzaga Bulldogs on Monday night. The entire 2016-17 season was nicknamed “The Redemption Tour.” For those who don’t remember, last April, the Tar Heels were handed the most devastating loss in school history. Villanova’s Kris Jenkins hit the shot of his life to lift the Wildcats over North Carolina at the buzzer, winning their first national championship since 1985. UNC was the favorite to win and got their hearts ripped out as the buzzer sounded.
“It was pretty awesome to watch from a neutral perspective but it sucked for UNC because Marcus Paige hit an even crazier shot before that,” sophomore Julian Fonseca said. “Honestly, it was probably one of the best games I’ve ever seen.”
As the Tar Heels walked off, watching the confetti fill the court with tears running down their faces, one thought ran through their minds: to get back to the final game next season. Most thought this was impossible for North Carolina as the team said goodbye to both All-American seniors Brice Johnson and Marcus Paige. Johnson averaged 17 points and 10 rebounds per game on top of shooting over 60 percent from the floor, while Paige posted 13 points and four assists a game as well. In the world of college hoops, these stat lines make or break a team’s season.
Still, UNC had 11 players return to Chapel Hill and a five-star promising 7-foot freshman coming in. Once the pre-season rankings came in, the Tar Heels landed the six spot. Head coach Roy Williams had few words to say when asked about their ranking, “Rankings don’t matter, this team is a final four team.” This was comical to most but for the Tar Heels, it was the only goal in mind. Once this season began, UNC jumped out to a quick 7-0 record with one notable win against no. 16 Wisconsin Badgers, 71-56. The Tar Heels suffered their first loss on the road against the Hoosiers of Indiana, 76-67. Their following loss was the most important loss of the season. The no. 6 Kentucky Wildcats squared off with no. 7 UNC in a CBS Sports Classic. This was the game of the year. Both teams shot well above 50 percent and the game ended with a 103-100 victory for the Wildcats. This was a turning point in the Tar Heels’ season, as the world was put on notice that North Carolina is still a powerhouse.
The Tar Heels finished with the outright ACC conference regular season title posting the same record as last season, 14-4 and an overall record of 26-6. UNC was blessed with the no. 1 seed in the south region. Again, many thought there was no chance the boys from Chapel Hill would make it out of the toughest region with possible opponents like Kentucky, UCLA, Butler and Arkansas. After the Tar Heels ran though Texas Southern, Arkansas and Butler, Kentucky was waiting for them in the Elite 8. This game will be remembered for years and years to come because of one game winning shot from sophomore Luke Maye.
“I literally couldn’t believe what I was watching,” senior student Joe Hunter said. “Once Malik Monk hit that insane three to tie the game, I thought for sure Kentucky was going to win. Then when Luke Maye hit the game winner, I went crazy. One of the best games I’ve ever seen.”
After the Kentucky win, UNC had the best chance to win the national championship.
“I had UNC winning from the beginning in my bracket. I thought Gonzaga was going to put up a fight but not enough to beat a team like that and a hall of fame coach like Roy Williams behind them,” said graduate student Joe Massoud. “Gonzaga lost because their big men couldn’t hang with the size of North Carolina. I was not surprised with the outcome at all.”
North Carolina finished the “Redemption Tour” like they said they would a year ago. Their sixth national championship is in the books and once again, Chapel Hill is on top of the college basketball world.