It's been a long and difficult four years for this senior class of Marcus Paige, Brice Johnson and Joel James. Not only has the success normally associated with Tar Heel teams on the court been somewhat elusive, the off the court cloud from the academic scandal cast a long shadow. Nothing has come easy for this group and after two ACC Championship game losses in three years, time was running out to hang a banner in the Dean Smith Center.
That all changed Saturday night. Virginia Tech lent a helping hand with a win over Miami to clear the path for UNC to finish first free and clear. All UNC needed to do to get one monkey of its back was to take care of another one: Winning at Duke. UNC's Cameron losing streak was three including the collapse last season in a game UNC probably should have won. These seniors had the weight of a rivalry trending the wrong way and going on four years since UNC had claimed an ACC crown bearing down on them.
Hence the relief afterwards with an emotional Brice Johnson burying his head in his jersey as the weight of four years of frustration was lifted. He and Marcus Paige shared a hug following an interview with ESPN just as the game ended. It was a moment four years in the making and hopefully the first of three such moments in 2016.