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THF Countdown #22: 1999

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Season: 1998-1999
Record: 24-10 overall, 10-6 ACC(3rd place)
ACC Tournament: Lost to Duke in the finals

NCAA Tournament: Lost to Weber State in the 1st Round

Roster: Brian Bersticker, Michael Brooker, Jason Capel, Ed Cota, Ronald Curry, Vasco Evtimov, Brad Frederick, Brendan Haywood, Kris Lang, Orlando Melendez, Terrence Newby, Ademola Okulaja, Max Owens, Scott Williams.

Source: UNC Media Guide

This is a team that often gets forgotten, mainly because we all had therapy after Harold Arceneaux did unholy things to the Heels during that 1st round loss in the NCAA Tournament. The greatest consolation I take from that game is the fact Arceneaux was a total flop after being hailed as some kind of great player for putting up 36 freaking points against UNC. I do not recall ever hearing from him again which probably is a good thing. The unfortunate aspect of this ending was it was the last game for Ademola Okulaja who was one of my favorites in the "jack of all trades" player department, a role currently being filled by Danny Green. And if you are still in the mood to blame someone for that loss look squarely at Brendan Haywood since he was completely non-existent taking only three shots and scoring one point as the Heels went down to one of the most embarrassing NCAA Tournament losses since they fell to Boston College in 1994.

The loss to Weber State really added to the enigma this team ended up being. The problem in my mind seemed to lie in that fact that you had supporting cast left behind after Antawn Jamison and Vince Carter left. Ed Cota was as close to a elite player as you had on this team though the frontline of Haywood-Okulaja-Kris Lang was not bad, simply young save for the senior. Jason Capel was also thrust into a major role as a freshman and actually performed well considering. The real problem was the lack of depth which was also a problem the season before. UNC went through this spell functioning with five good players and nothing serviceable off the bench. Max Owens did average 7.8 ppg in 1999 but simply did not shoot the three consistently enough. This offense also did not score a lot of points, probably because the tempo was much slower.

The frustrating nature of this season lies in the fact the Heels won the Preseason NIT beating two ranked teams in the process. Of course major red flags went up all over the place when the Heels scraped by Old Dominion by two then lost to College of Charleston by two the next night. This was followed by a overtime win versus UNC Charlotte(which was a repeat of the 2nd round NCAA Tournament game during the previous season.) The Heels also lost to California on the road after ACC play had started. All of this seemed to be indicative of some wild inconsistency on their part, though not as much in the ACC since four of their six losses came at the hands of Duke and Maryland and in the case of the latter the Heels knocked them off in the ACC Tournament semifinals before getting trounced by Duke who was well on their way to that incredible choke job in the national title game.

In the end, the Weber State loss, being the last think we remember or don't remember depending on how good your psychiatrist was frames this season to be far more disastrous than it probably was in reality. Had UNC advanced to the 2nd Round and lost to Florida then we probably walk away thinking that is exactly how this season should have ended. Of course we were accustomed to these minor hiccups along the way and since we were UNC, the expectation was things would bounce back. Little did we know what lay ahead and losing to Weber State was nothing compared to the humiliation waiting three years later.

Countdown So Far

23. 2000
24. 2004
25. 1990
26. 2003
27. 2002