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What UNC athletic program could win their first NCAA Championship next?

With women’s tennis brining home their first NCAA title last week, what Tar Heel program could break through next?

2023 NCAA Division I Men’s and Women’s Tennis Team Championship Photo by Preston Mack/NCAA Photos via Getty Images

Last weekend, the North Carolina Tar Heels women’s tennis team beat NC State to claim the first NCAA championship in the program’s history. While the program had won national championships before, they were all in the indoor tennis portion of the season, which are put on by the Intercollegiate Tennis Association and are not officially sponsored by the NCAA.

With the win, the tennis team won UNC’s 49th all-time NCAA Tournament. They joined women’s soccer (21), field hockey (10), men’s basketball (6), men’s lacrosse (5), women’s lacrosse (3), men’s soccer (2), and women’s basketball (1), as the eighth Carolina program that’s won a NCAA title. That got us thinking about what program could be next. Let’s go through the candidates and try and figure out what other UNC sports could raise a banner at some point.

Still Could Do It This Year

One team that could theoretically add to that list in the next couple days is men’s golf. The Heels were ranked #2 in the country in the most recent golf coaches’ poll and are set to take part in the NCAA Championships starting tomorrow. There’s still many hurdles to potentially overcome on that road, but UNC has come semi-close on the course in recent years.

Another contender that could win their first title is the Tar Heels baseball team. While UNC likely won’t go into the NCAA Baseball Tournament as one of the favorites, they’re solidly a tournament team, and baseball can be a random sport in a small sample size. Last year, Ole Miss won the baseball title after being one of the final teams selected for the field of 64.

Even if not this year, the Heels have had plenty of chances on the baseball diamond in recent years. They came heartbreakingly close in 2006 and ‘07 and have made fairly regular trips to the College World Series. If they can keep being consistent as a program and continually make it to Omaha, eventually things may land in their favor.

Many members of the UNC track and field teams made NCAA Championship regionals, but it’s unlikely that they will be able to put up enough good results to win either of the men’s and women’s team titles.

Have Been Close Before

Like the women’s tennis team prior to last week, the Tar Heel men’s tennis team have won ITA indoor national titles — including as recently as 2021 — but haven’t won the outdoor NCAA tournament yet. They lost in the round of 16 of this year’s tourney, but if they keep putting themselves in the late rounds, they could very easily break though.

Have Had Good Years, But the Mountain to Climb Seems Giant

Ah, football. In their history, UNC have seven appearances in the postseason AP Top 10, including finishing third in 1948. They’ve had a couple good years recently, but even then, the jump from “good” to “national title good” seems gigantic. We just saw what happened to TCU when they had an incredible season and then ran into one of the superpowers of the sport in the championship game. Carolina would probably need to have at least like a decade of sustained success that continually brings in top five recruiting classes before they can put together a roster that can go through multiple playoff quality teams.

Seems Like the Infrastructure Should Be There

As evident by the amount of Carolina teams that have already won titles, UNC is a general athletic powerhouse. There are several teams — that may have even had some good years before — that with the right combination of coaches and players could put something together in quick order. Those programs include, softball, gymnastics, swimming/diving, cross country, wrestling, volleyball, and women’s golf.

I Know Absolutely Nothing About This Sport and Where UNC’s Program Stands in the Scope of it

Apologies to rowing, and fencing, but I really don’t know the deals with your sports.