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THF Countdown #25: 1990

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Season: 1989-1990
Record: 21-13 overall, 8-6 ACC(3rd place tie)
ACC Tournament: Lost to Virginia in the quarterfinals

NCAA Tournament: Lost to Arkansas in Sweet Sixteen

Roster: Scott Cherry, Pete Chilcutt, Hubert Davis, Jeff Denny, Rick Fox, John Greene, Kenny Harris, Marty Hensley, George Lynch, Kevin Madden, King Rice, Henrik Rodl, Matt Wenstrom, Scott Williams.

Source: UNC Media Guide

This was the original "8-20" season.

Prior to the 1990 season, UNC was seeded no lower than #3 in the NCAA Tournament. Winning 20 games was a given as was making it to the Sweet Sixteen. Then along came the 1990 team and UNC entered the NCAA Tournament seeded #8 with 19 wins which cast doubts on their ability to attain either benchmark. This was somewhat of a shock then and even more so now looking at the roster. On paper this team had some very good players. Rick Fox, George Lynch, Scott Williams and Hubert Davis all played in the NBA, albeit as role players.

The main issue with the 1990 team was the attrition from the season before in the form of Jeff Lebo, Steve Bucknall and J.R. Reid. This was a bit too much to handle. King Rice ended as the starting PG and in all honesty he may have been the least talented player UNC had at PG during the past 30 seasons save the Doherty years. Rick Fox and Hubert Davis were good offensive players as was George Lynch but in the case of the latter two they were only sophomores Davis was only a sophomore, Lynch a freshman. Kevin Madden and Scott Williams were both solid but not really all that spectacular. In many ways it was a hodge podge of very good players that either needed another year to develop or simply did not click as a team. Basically, it was a transition year. UNC had avoided such seasons for almost a decade but the start of the 1990s was a bumpy one.

In the end, the most memorable part of this season was the NCAA Tournament 2nd Round upset of #1 Oklahoma. There was the incredible comeback against James Madison in Maui where the Heels trailed 79-70 with a minute left and Dean Smith having squirreled away all his timeouts orchestrated a 10-0 run to win the game. The Heels also beat Duke by 19 in Chapel Hill and 12 at Cameron which got them to 3rd in the ACC. However it was largely a forgettable season with the exception of one sweet Rick Fox drive down the baseline on St. Patrick's Day.

Countdown So Far

#26. 2003
#27. 2002