Record: 32-2 overall, 12-2 ACC(1st place)
ACC Tournament: Won Championship
NCAA Tournament: Won National Championship
Roster: Jeb Barlow, Jimmy Black, Jim Braddock, John Brownlee, Chris Brust, Matt Doherty, Cecil Exum, Michael Jordan, Timo Makkonen, Warren Martin, Sam Perkins, Buzz Peterson, Lynwood Robinson, Dean Shaffer, James Worthy.
Source: UNC Media Guide
First of all let me explain why 1982 is #1.
1. Only two losses
2. Won the ACC regular season and tournament championship
3. Beat the #2 team in the country twice in Kentucky and UVa and the latter again when they were ranked #3. Other ranked teams beat were: #9 Tulsa, #12/#17 NCSU and #14 Wake Forest.
4. Team had James Worthy, Michael Jordan and Sam Perkins.
5. They actually beat Santa Clara
The 1982 team represents a key moment in the history of the Tar Heel basketball program. UNC had won the title in 1957 but nothing since then and under Dean Smith plenty of close calls but nothing in the way of a cigar. So when UNC went to the Final Four following a fairly dominant season with only two losses and the ACC title under their belt memories of 1977 and 1981 were painfully fresh in the minds of my Tar Heel fans. And considering it would take eleven season to win another title, not winning in 1982 may have had detrimental effects going forward.
1982 was also the season the world was introduced to a basketball player named Michael Jordan and we all know how that turned out both in terms of the national title game but also the fact Jordan became bigger than the game of basketball itself by the time his career peaked.
UNC played about as well as any team could play all season. The only two losses came at the hands of two very good teams in the ACC. UNC lost at UVa when the Cavs had Ralph Sampson and was a fixture in the top five. The loss to Wake happened in part because Sam Perkins was sick and did not play. This team did not possess a great deal of depth. Actually this team had zero depth and losing a key player like Perkins versus a good Wake Forest team spelled certain trouble. Beyond that the Heels played some nip and tuck games including the ACC title matchup with UVa which UNC led by one at the seven minute mark of the 2nd half and used Four Corners to end up winning the game 47-45.
In the NCAA Tournament, UNC got the life scared out of them in the 2nd Round when they faced underdog James Madison in Charlotte. The Heels managed to slip by 52-50 in a game that closely resembled the 2005 game versus Villanova in the way it unfolded. UNC then beat Alabama in the Sweet Sixteen and Villanova to win the East Regional and advance to a 2nd consecutive Final Four.
In New Orleans the Heels beat Houston to set up a another trip to the title game, this time versus Georgetown who boasted a stellar freshman of their own in Patrick Ewing. Ewing did a very odd thing in this game and goal tended at least five Tar Heel shots in the first half. This was an apparent attempt at intimidation and I am not sure it really benefited the Hoyas any. Georgetown led by one at halftime in a game that was close the whole way. James Worthy took UNC on his back with 28 points and got support from Jordan with 16. UNC trailed by one with 32 seconds left and Dean called timeout to set the play:
Worthy would get two free throws and miss them both. It is possible he missed the 2nd one on purpose to get the clock started. Georgetown got a midcourt heave off and if fell short giving Dean Smith his first national title and like 2005 killing the 800 lb gorilla on the coaches' back. The play of Worthy in this season cemented him as a Tar Heel great even those his overall stats(45th on the scoring list) do not really set him apart. The legend of Michael Jordan was basically born on that one shot.
In the 27 years I have been watching UNC play basketball, this team is the best of the bunch though it is by the smallest of margins and among the top three we can all find different aspects of those teams that make them a favorite.
Side Note: NCAA On Demand has multiple videos on YouTube that are highlight reels of title games that serve as ads for buying the games from their website. Check out the video for the 1982 game. Most of the highlights are of plays being made by Georgetown players and if you did not know the result you could almost swear by watching most of this clip that the Hoyas won the game. Also note the absolutely depressing tone in the voice of the play by play announcer when the game ends. His first declaration is a glum statement that Georgetown has lost and almost as an afterthought he says UNC has won the title. I also found it interesting that Billy Packer screamed "It's over! It's over!" when Worthy was fouled with two seconds left. Maybe if he had waited until a few seconds were left in the Kansas-UNC game in 2008 to say it was over he still might have a job with CBS.