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Grappling with the end of a disappointing season for UNC Basketball

A lot of what happened this season made no sense, and maybe accepting that fact is the first step to recovery.

NCAA Basketball: ACC Conference Tournament Quarterfinals - Virginia vs North Carolina Bob Donnan-USA TODAY Sports

It has now been a little over 12 hours since UNC fell to Virginia in the ACC Tournament, effectively ending their 2022-23 season. The final buzzer brought on several different emotions for me — some relief that a long season was over, and frustration that it went the way it did — but mostly I just wanted to make sense of what we’ve witnessed this season and begin figuring out how to process it. While I am not as close to figuring it out as I’d like to be, but I am definitely getting closer than I was at about 9pm last night.

As we all know, he Tar Heels entered the season with extremely big expectations: the Associated Press named them the #1 team in the country, Sports Illustrated did an incredible magazine cover of them, and some of the players were getting stellar NIL deals. Everything teed up this team to be the stars of college basketball, but getting buried in it all was the truth: it was going to be very, very hard to repeat any of the magic from last season, and if we’re being honest with ourselves, that “magic” really only existed in the months of March and April.

Probably the most frustrating part of the season is that even if this team wasn’t meant to make it back to the Final Four, it wasn’t a tall ask to make it back to the NCAA Tournament. This roster was built for the postseason even though we all could debate how far they would actually get. The number one question that everyone is asking right now is why this happened, right? Well, everyone has an answer for that: some say poor shooting, some say bad coaching, some say a bad roster, or injuries, and of course, some will blame one or two players. If anybody were to ask me which of these things were the biggest problem this season, I would simply respond by saying “Yes.”

There’s a very specific type of team across all sports that will upset fans the most, and it’s the team that literally has everything go wrong, voluntarily and involuntarily. Yes, Hubert Davis could’ve done a better coaching job. Of course, the players themselves could’ve played better and had a better mindset this season. Finally, there were several injuries that played a role in all of this as well. I don’t know that there is any one move that Hubert Davis and/or Bubba Cunningham could make that would make every fan feel better, and that perhaps is the most depressing thing about how this season played out. There simply isn’t one easy answer, just a lot of messy, complicated answers that will leave fans arguing for the next 7-8 months.

As far as where things go from here, I honestly have no idea. Hubert Davis may have his team play in the NIT, or he might call it quits for the season and focus on fine-tuning his roster for the 2022-23 season. Here’s what I do know: Hubert Davis isn’t going to be fired, this roster will look different going into next season, and the preseason #1 pressure won’t be there unless Tyler Hansbrough somehow has eligibility left. I wish there was a solution going into next season that I knew would make everyone happy, but the fact of the matter is that what happened this season is what it is. Most of this team gave us a really fun March last season, and for that they should still be applauded because without it this season seems that much worse.

I am not here to tell anybody how to feel, or what to think, or to even tell all of you that every single bad thing this season will go away for next season. What I will say, however, is that you all are not alone in not knowing how to navigate a team that had almost everything go wrong this season. As humans we so badly want to simplify issues so that we can make sense of the world, but much like the 2022-23 Tar Heels, sometimes things just cannot be that easy. Sometimes, all we need to know is that things simply didn’t work, and that things can, and hopefully will, be better next time.