It’s July, and there isn’t much going on in the college sports world. You’re most likely counting down the days until college football starts, or following former Tar Heels in the NBA Summer League. As you may have noticed, North Carolina did not have anybody selected in this year’s draft. As was pointed out by Dadgum Box Scores (a highly entertaining twitter account you should follow), this is only the fourth time that has happened since Roy Williams returned to Chapel Hill in 2003-2004.
2018 #NBADraft marks the 4th time in the Roy Williams era that a Carolina player was not drafted ('04, '08, '11, '18)— Dadgum Box Scores (@dadgumboxscores) June 22, 2018
In each of the consecutive years after ('05, '09, '12), Tar Heels had 4 players selected in each of those drafts
As stated, 2004, 2008, and 2011 were the other three seasons when UNC did not have a player selected in the draft. Though to be honest, I’m not sure next year’s team has four NBA selections on it’s roster for the 2019 draft. The rest of that tweet may not hold up, but that is not the important part.
What is not mentioned in that tweet is how UNC did the following season. Heels fans will easily recognize that two titles and an Elite Eight (I will never not hate Creighton) followed those three NBA Draft-less summers. If you’re looking for quirky stats to give you optimism for a deep run next season, I think this qualifies.
Now, next season’s team is slightly different from those teams. The 2004, 2009, and 2012 teams all returned their entire starting lineups, being especially strong at the pivotal point guard position. All three teams were essentially coronated as “Championship or bust” teams before the first tip-off of the season. That’s a different expectation than what currently faces next year’s team, especially as they try to fill the voids left by Joel Berry II and Theo Pinson. Comparing those first three teams to the 2018-2019 squad is not an exact apples-to-apples comparison.
However, as I wrote earlier this week, there is plenty of talent coming back next season. Much like the 2009 team that brought back the 2008 NCAA Player of the Year, Tyler Hansbrough, next year’s team brings back one of the best returning players as well. Plus, the earlier versions didn’t feature a star-studded, instant-impact recruiting class like the one that arrived in Chapel Hill this summer. For whatever exact comparisons are missing between the ‘05, ‘09, and ‘12 teams when placed next to the 2018-2019 team, there are enough positive developments to give even the most pessimistic fan a reason to think next season could be special.
If that happens, well, the Heels just may see four players hear their names called on draft night. (But, seriously, probably not).