Record: 22-14 overall, 9-7 ACC(3rd place tie)
ACC Tournament: Lost to Wake Forest in the quarterfinals
NCAA Tournament: Lost to Florida in the Final Four
Roster: Michael Brooker, Jason Capel, Ed Cota, Jim Everett, Joseph Forte, Brendan Haywood, Jonathan Holmes, Will Johnson, Matt Laczkowski, Kris Lang, Orlando Melendez, Terrence Newby, Max Owens, Julius Peppers, Kenny White.
Source: UNC Media Guide
By way of review this countdown had named four teams, a group that includes the only losing record in the last 27 years and the only two teams not to make the NCAA Tournament. Moving to the next team we actually get a Final Four team ranked in the 20s. As much as I would love to push this team higher it simply is not happening. The 2000 team, the last coached by Bill Guthridge, had a lot of bad basketball sandwiched in between winning the Maui Invitational to start the season and ending it with a run to the Final Four.
It is interesting how often UNC gets ranked in the top ten or top five to start the season. In this case UNC started off red hot. Ed Cota was a senior and on his way to being a 1000 assist man which is so rare only two of PGs have done it in NCSU's Chris Corchiani and Duke's Bobby Hurley. Brendan Haywood, Jason Capel, Kris Lang and Julius Pepper made up the bulk of the lineup with a huge surprise in the person of Joe Forte. Forte came in and right away made a huge impact setting the record for most points by a freshman. I recall when that season began, everything looked so promising with the three wins in Maui then came a loss to Michigan State with the Heels ranked #2. UNC cruised through the cupcakes with ease, got tripped by #1 Cincinnati along the way and seemed to be living up to the top 15 ranking for the most part until the wheels came off.
Starting late December UNC became a virtual yo-yo. Win a few straight, lose a few straight until the Heels found themselves prominently on the NCAA bubble at 18-12 going to the ACC Tournament. They promptly lost to Wake Forest who was also on the bubble with the same record leading many to believe UNC was NIT-bound with Wake Forest getting the NCAA nod. The opposite occurred and UNC apparently took this new life as an excuse to make a run to the Final Four as a #8 seed beating #1 seeded Stanford in the 2nd round and clearing Tennessee and Tulsa before running out of gas against Florida in the Final Four.
In many ways this was a fun team to watch but also frustrating to see them lose so much. Not to cast dispersions on Bill Guthridge but I wonder what Roy Williams could have done with the same squad then I remember had Roy Williams been there you would have had more than Joe Forte in that recruiting class.
Countdown So Far