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UNC Basketball: The Martini

One final shot.

NCAA Basketball: North Carolina at Syracuse Mark Konezny-USA TODAY Sports

In Hollywood, there’s a term called the “Martini Shot;” slang for the last shot of the day. After a long day of work, the company can at last unwind and perhaps find their way to a local watering hole to locate a shot or two of an altogether different kind. I’d imagine there’s a palpable release of tension, as one day’s work is over and the next day’s still holds the promise of the unknown.

There’s a kind of similar easing of tension to the winding-down of a season like this. The regular season ends tonight, a handful of miles down the road, and there’s no postseason guarantee. The work hasn’t been easy this season, not by a long shot. There have been injuries along the way, sure, and things haven’t always gone the way we would like for the Heels. There’s more relief in the final part of this season, I think, than there have been in seasons past.

It would make sense to save the best for last. The Heels are on a three-game winning streak, an unprecedented string in which they’ve gotten hot at the right time, and some Tar Heel faithful can’t help but feel that hope welling up. It would be perfect for this final shot of the regular season to be the triumphant one, the against-all-odds underdog laughing in the face of the adversity and finally coming out on top. We could all take a deep breath, and go to our chosen watering holes, and maybe even have a martini or two.

It may not be. Perhaps the Martini Shot of this particular season will be like the last time the two teams played. It’s possible that this movie isn’t a redemption story after all, but a story of heartbreak and falling just short. We’ll find out tonight, but until then we can focus on the promise of the unknown. There’s always the possibility that this shot will be the one where the good guys finally win, that we can wrap this particular iteration of Tar Heel basketball on a soaring high note.

Maybe it’ll look like hitting a few mid-range jumpers en route to a defeat of the Duke Blue Devils. Maybe it’ll look like a freshman leading a team to an improbable win over hated rivals. Maybe it’ll look like a junior forward showing a freshman center how it’s done. However it goes, though, it’s been quite a ride—and it’d be a hell of a story.