clock menu more-arrow no yes

Filed under:

UNC Basketball: The parallels between 2017 and 2009

New, comments

The Tar Heels are seeking to emulate the school’s last title run.

NCAA Basketball: NCAA Tournament-Second Round-Arkansas vs North Carolina Bob Donnan-USA TODAY Sports

Let’s hop in the old time machine for a take from the past:

“After that shaky performance on Sunday, the Tar Heels might not be able to avenge last year’s devastating loss. The team appeared disheveled and sloppy. It took a second-half run fueled by lockdown defense and clutch upperclassmen play to beat an inferior SEC team that had no business being close.

Now they have to go to Memphis to play a really good mid-major (if you can even call them that at this point) with a tough game against one of the top 10 teams in the country to possibly follow.”

—What high school senior me would probably have said after the 2nd round win over LSU in 2009 if someone was irresponsible enough to trust high school me to share his thoughts with the world

2009 UNC is remembered as a juggernaut. Future NBA players were all over the roster. Tyler Hansbrough, Ty Lawson, Danny Green, Wayne Ellington, Ed Davis, Tyler Zeller. They stormed through the NCAA tournament, winning every game by double digits and capped it off with one of the more dominating title performances of recent memory and destroyed the “Michigan State is playing to save the auto industry!” narrative pushed by the national media. The run gave us this all-timer, too:

But how does the 2017 team compare to 2009? This year’s team also struggled with an under-matched SEC team (albeit to a greater extent than 2009). They were playing with their junior point guard dealing with an injury (Joel Berry’s ankle vs. Ty Lawson, his big toe, and his dad’s Epsom salt remedy). They are now moving onto the same Memphis site as in 2009.

Butler is a capable and talented “mid-major” just as Gonzaga was in 2009. All the talking heads are already looking ahead to a UNC/Kentucky Elite 8 game, similar to pundits licking their chops at the thought of a Tyler Hansbrough/Blake Griffin match-up. 2017 is coming off that 2016 loss that shall not be named similar to the 2009 team coming off that loss in 2008 that I also would prefer not to mention either.

Does that mean this year’s team is a lock to cut down the nets? Absolutely not. It does mean that one game won’t change the narrative of a season-long run of excellence. It does mean that a single, ugly game is nothing more than just one bad game. It means that being one of the 16 teams left playing for a titles is, frankly, all that matters. Villanova would have killed for an ugly win over Wisconsin last Saturday. Duke would kill to have not wasted a once in a lifetime amount of talent to be playing this weekend.

This year’s team has the ceiling of a title winner for months now. Maybe they struggle again and come up short, maybe they put it all together for four more games and have the sweetest redemption in program history. Their best is better than any other team’s best so who’s to say it can’t happen? No matter what, though, one ugly and lucky win over a middle of the pack SEC team doesn’t change that. It sure didn’t in 2009.