Monthly Archives: April 2016

The Path To Houston (Glory), Part 6

We made it to “Part 6” of this column, and that’s great news because it means the Tar Heels are in the national championship game! Standing between Carolina and a sixth national championship are Jay Wright and the Villanova Wildcats. What do you need to know heading into the game? Read on to find out.

National Championship: Villanova

  • 34-5 (16-2)
  • 1st in the Big East
  • Stat Leaders (of contributing players)
    • Points: Josh Hart – 15.5
    • Assists: Ryan Arcidiacono – 4.3
    • FG% (min. 100 attempts): Daniel Ochefu – 62.3
    • Rebounds: Daniel Ochefu – 7.6
    • Steals: Ryan Arcidiacono – 1.36
    • Blocks: Daniel Ochefu – 1.53
    • Minutes: Ryan Arcidiacono – 31.9

Previous NCAA Tournament Meetings Games

The 2016 National Championship game will mark the 7th time UNC and Villanova have played in the NCAA Tournament. In the previous 6, Carolina is 5-1, only losing in the 1985 Elite 8. Here are all the previous games, rounds, and results:

  1. 1982, Elite 8, UNC 70 – Villanova 60
  2. 1985, Elite 8, Villanova 56 – UNC 44
  3. 1991, 2nd Round, UNC 84 – Villanova 69
  4. 2005, Sweet 16, UNC 67 – Villanova 66
  5. 2009, Final Four, UNC 83 – Villanova 69
  6. 2013, 1st Round, UNC 78 – Villanova 71
  7. 2016, National Championship, ???

Though these games are listed in chronological order, upon closer inspection, you might notice an interesting tidbit: UNC has beaten Villanova in every round of the NCAA Tournament. Every round but one. The National Championship. Time to rectify that omission.

Game Notes

  • This game has all the makings of an incredible title clash. Villanova and North Carolina come into the game ranked number one and two respectively in the KenPom Rankings. They also are number one and two in adjusted offensive efficiency, with the Tar Heels leading in this category.
  • As you mentally prepare for this game, the UNC opponent to most similarly compare Villanova to would have to be Virginia, who was also top 10 this season in both offensive and defensive efficiency.
  • Carolina’s overwhelming advantage should be on the backboards where the Tar Heels have a 40.6% offensive rebounding rate and a 69.8% defensive rebounding rate to Villanova’s 28.6% and 29.0%.
  • Hard to believe, but Roy Williams would surpass Dean Smith in number of national championships with a win (3 for Roy, 2 for Dean).
  • Despite being undersized, Villanova has limited the productivity of their opponent’s big men. Perry Ellis of Kansas, for example, was held to 4 points in the Elite 8. As we know the Tar Heel inside attack should prove a more formidable adversary. It will be interesting to see if and how Villanova can slow down Brice Johnson, Kennedy Meeks, and Isaiah Hicks.
  • Kris Jenkins connection. 2 Tar Heels have connections to Villanova 4-man Kris Jenkins. Brice Johnson played on a youth team with Jenkins in a picture that has been circulating this past week:

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The other connection is an even deeper level. Nate Britt and Jenkins are legally brothers because the Britt family became Jenkins’ legal guardian in 2007 after some family changes for the Jenkins family. Britt’s parents and sister will be at Monday’s national championship game and have vowed to remain neutral, knowing that, regardless of the outcome, they will have a son who ends the night as national champion and one who ends the night coming up just short.

The Record Book

  • Brice Johnson currently has 408 rebounds this season – a Tar Heel single season record. With 5 rebounds in the national championship game he would move into 10th place on the ACC single season rebounds leaderboard. Interestingly, he would be the only player in the 2000s to land on this list. In fact, other than Tim Duncan’s 457 rebounds in 1997, the other most recent entry in the top 10 is from 1974 (Len Elmore with 412).
  • With 1 more rebound, Brice Johnson will be the #5 career rebounder in Tar Heel history. He is currently tied with Antawn Jamison.
  • Donald Williams holds the current UNC career record for made 3s in the NCAA Tournament with 38. Marcus Paige currently sits at 35.
  • Also, on the Marcus Paige made 3 pointers front – he is already #1 in career made 3 pointers for UNC with 295. With a big night in his final college game, Paige could be the first Tar Heel to ever have 300 for his career.

Villanova Starters

Player Ht Wt MPG PPG RPG APG FG% 3-PT% FT% TPG SPG BPG
Jalen Brunson 6’2.5” 199 24.0 9.7 1.8 2.6 45.5 38.1 77.9 1.85 0.72 0.0
Ryan Arcidiacono 6’3” 195 31.9 12.4 2.9 4.3 43.9 38.9 83.3 1.51 1.36 0.03
Josh Hart 6’5” 205 31.2 15.5 6.7 1.9 51.5 35.8 75.2 1.64 1.15 0.23
Kris Jenkins 6’6” 240 28.5 13.6 3.9 2.2 45.6 38.4 85.3 1.26 0.77 0.41
Daniel Ochefu 6’11” 245 23.1 10.1 7.6 1.7 62.3 0.0 68.8 1.33 0.81 1.53

Villanova Key Reserves

Player Ht Wt MPG PPG RPG APG FG% 3-PT% FT% TPG SPG BPG
Phil Booth 6’3” 185 21.8 6.7 2.1 2.2 35.3 30.6 86.6 1.44 0.74 0.10
Mikal Bridges 6’7” 191 20.5 6.5 3.2 0.9 51.8 29.9 78.7 0.62 1.08 0.64
Darryl Reynolds 6’8” 225 17.3 3.7 4.6 0.4 64.9 0.0 72.3 0.72 0.41 0.54

The Numbers

  North Carolina Villanova
KenPom Rank 2 1
Points per game 83.0 70.1
Adj. Offensive Efficiency (Rank) 123.7 (1st) 122.0 (2nd)
Adj. Defensive Efficiency (Rank) 95.2 (23rd) 91.9 (6th)
Tempo (Rank) 71.3 (64th) 66.7 (284th)
Field Goal% 48.2 42.6
2P FG% 54.4 57.3
3P FG% 31.9 35.9
3PA% 26.7 43.0
FT% 74.8 78.2
FT Rate 32.5% 34.1%
RPG 40.7 35.2
Offensive Reb Rate 40.6% 28.6%
Defensive Reb Rate 69.8% 29.0%
APG 17.8 16.2
BPG 4.5 3.3
SPG 6.8 6.7
TPG 10.8 12.2
TO Rate 15.3% 16.3%

3 X-Factors:

  1. The backcourt (Berry, Paige, Jackson, Pinson, Britt) has done a marvelous job taking care of the ball in the tournament. Can they continue to do so against Villanova’s swarming defense. This will be all-important because the advantage on the interior is not an advantage if the guards can’t make entry passes.
  2. Isaiah Hicks’ foul trouble. With Villanova employing the use of a stretch 4, Hicks’ mobility will be important. If he can stay out of foul trouble (and therefore on the court), he could have an incredibly productive game.
  3. UNC’s backcourt & Nova’s frontcourt. All the national media attention for Villanova is on their backcourt and for North Carolina is on their frontcourt. This shapes up very similarly to the sweet 16 against Indiana. While UNC’s 3 point shooting is a statistical weakness, any combination of Paige, Berry, Britt, and Jackson could have a solid night from deep. You might recall Paige’s 3 point barrage to start the Indiana game. Similarly, don’t sleep on Villanova’s Daniel Ochefu (similar to Indiana’s Thomas Bryant). While the lone inside scoring threat, Ochefu could have a big game inside, although he has been hampered by a bum ankle.

Main Key to the Game for the Tar Heels:

You guessed it: exploit the size advantage in the paint. As has been the case all tournament long, UNC will have a decided frontcourt size advantage. On offense this means pounding the ball into the paint and continuing to offensively rebound around 50% of the misses. On the defensive end, this means playing tight defense without fouling and rebounding at the normal clip.

 

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Quick Hitters – Syracuse (NCAA Tournament – Final 4)

Quick Hitters from tonight’s 83-66 win over Syracuse in the Final Four:

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  1. First off – congrats to Brice Johnson. First Tar Heel to ever have 400 rebounds in one season. Broke Tyler Hansbrough’s record of 399. He has 408 for the season.
  2. Carolina has won every game in this NCAA Tournament by at least 14 points. Tonight’s 17 point margin was the biggest for the Tar Heels in a Final Four.
  3. The Heels had trouble getting the ball to the high post in first half. Interestingly, the guards (Joel Berry in particular) had great success penetrating the zone with dribble penetration.
  4. 3 pointers? We don’t need no stinking 3 pointers. 0-10 from 3 in the 1st half, while shooting 17-25 from 2. The team did end up hitting 4 (3 from Paige, 1 from Pinson) during a critical stretch of the 2nd That first 3 from Paige could not have come at a better time as Syracuse had cut the lead to 7. The 3 point shooting was offset by a 50-32 advantage in the paint and a 43-31 rebounding advantage.
  5. Brice Johnson picked up his 2nd foul with 9:05 left in the 1st half and the score tied at 16. As per usual, he sat the rest of the half. This was scary – one of those things that causes you to lose in the Final Four. The Heels not only survived this stretch but pushed out to and 11 point lead by halftime.
  6. In the tournament, it’s always fun to see an unexpected player step up. With Isaiah Hicks mired in foul trouble, Joel James had 6 quality minutes. He had 4 points, including a zone-friendly 15-footer from the free throw line. He had 3 rebounds, one of which was a huge defensive rebound.
  7. With a minute to go in the first half, Grant Hill talked about Syracuse being worn down by the “physical play of the Tar Heels”. These guys are tough! And someone in the media thinks so!
  8. Syracuse shot abysmally from the free throw line (4-13).
  9. Syracuse rolled out the full-court pressure that keyed the comeback against Virginia. The first time this happened, UNC scored in about 4 seconds. Carolina did have a couple turnovers on the pressure later in the game, but handled it really well for the most part.
  10. Joel Berry continues to display a keen knack for when to distribute and when to get to the rack and score. Despite an unusual 0-4 from deep, Joel quietly had a really nice game – 8 points, 7 rebounds, 10 assists, 1 steal, and only 1 turnover, in 34 minutes.
  11. Marcus Paige had one of the prettiest touch passes I’ve ever seen at the 14:11 mark of the 2nd
  12. There were at least 3 made 3-pointers in this game that bounced on the rim multiple times before falling in.
  13. Another great job getting key players in foul trouble. Gbinije and Richardson (the two leading scorers) both had 4 with 4:02 to go.
  14. Syracuse was visibly fatigued in this game. By the time they went consistently to the full court press, there just wasn’t anything left in the tank. We understand experiencing that in the Final Four – 2008 against Kansas. It’s going to be hard for any team to have the energy to stay with Carolina. Especially this Syracuse team who only played 7 guys; one of which had 5 minutes, one had 19, and the other 5 players had 30 minutes or more.
  15. The Tar Heels experienced a brain lapse midway through the 2nd It will have to be a complete 40 minute game on Monday night. Villanova will make us pay for a lull of that nature.
  16. Syracuse made the Final Four on the strength of their defense. In their first 4 NCAA Tournament games, they had allowed 51, 50, 60, and 62 points, for an average of 55.75 points. The Heels scored 83 points tonight. In those same first 4 games, Syracuse allowed field goal percentages of 39.6, 29.7 43.6, and 41.5. The Heels shot 53.8% tonight.
  17. Don’t look now, but Kennedy Meeks has strung together 3 strong games in a row. Tonight he had 15 points and 8 rebounds, 5 of which were offensive.

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The Path To Houston (Glory), Part 5

Well, we can’t call this column “The Path To Houston” anymore. Why? Because the Tar Heels have made it to the Final Four! So today (and Monday if all goes well), we’ll now call this column “The Path To Houston (Glory), Part 5”. For the second game in a row, the Tar Heels will match up for the third time this season with an ACC foe: the 10th-seeded Syracuse Orange. At this point, however, you can throw the seeds out the window because there are only 4 teams left playing, and they are all playing at an extremely high level. Here’s what you need to know for Saturday night’s match-up.

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Final Four: Syracuse

  • 23-13 (9-9)
  • 10th in ACC
  • Stat Leaders (of contributing players)
    • Points: Michael Gbinije – 17.6
    • Assists: Michael Gbinije – 4.4
    • FG%: DaJuan Coleman – 54.1
    • Rebounds: Tyler Roberson – 8.4
    • Steals: Michael Gbinije – 2.0
    • Blocks: Tyler Lydon – 1.8
    • Minutes: Michael Gbinije – 37.9

Previous 2015-16 Games

  • Game 1 – January 9. @ Syracuse. 84-73 UNC. This was Boeheim’s first game back from suspension, was a home game for the Orange, and the Tar Heels had never gone 4-0 under Coach Williams to start ACC play. It had all the makings of the Saints first game back in the SuperDome after Hurricane Katrina, in which the Falcons didn’t stand a chance. The game was tied at 58 with 6:31 to go, and was only a 2-point game (66-64) with 3:19 to go. The Tar Heels then went on a 18-9 over those final minutes to win by 11. The key was not shooting over the vaunted Orange zone(18.8 3PT%), but attacking it from the inside. Brice Johnson had a career-high 8 assists (Paige also had 8 assists), 5 of which came in the final 8:13 of the game as he picked apart the zone from the high post. 7 of the 8 were for dunks or layups. 4 went to Isaiah Hicks who finished the night with 21 points.
  • Game 2 – Febrauary 29. Senior Night. @ North Carolina. 75-70 UNC. On this night, Syracuse showed a more determined effort to stop the ball from getting into the middle of the zone. Marcus Paige once again had 8 assists against the Orange. Brice Johnson had 14 & 10 for just another, ho-hum *yawn* double-double. Tar Heels led by as many as 13 in the 2nd They never trailed, but Syracuse cut the lead to 3 several times within the last 7 minutes, including :07 to go. It was Joel Berry who sent his senior teammates to a senior night victory with two free throws to ice it.

Game Notes

  • Depth – Syracuse’s doesn’t have much. Their depth is very similar to that of Duke. 5 players average 30+ minutes a game with 2 other players averaging 17 and 10 minutes a game. Despite the lack of depth, the zone helps the Orange stay out of foul trouble. At the same time, UNC’s depth and pace should wear out the thin Syracuse bench.
  • 337 – Syracuse’s rank in defensive rebounding percentage. 3 – North Carolina’s rank in offensive rebounding percentage. The Tar Heels must exploit this advantage.
  • In the last 6 NCAA Tournament games as NRG Stadium in Houston (Where the Final Four will be played), the competing teams shot a combined 27.6% from 3. Guess who relies on that shot? Syracuse, Oklahoma, and Villanova. Guess who doesn’t rely on that shot? The North Carolina men’s basketball team. Advantage Tar Heels.

The Record Book

  • Brice Johnson needs 1 rebound to set the Carolina record for most rebounds in a season. He currently has 399 and is tied with Tyler Hansbrough. This would also make Brice the only player in program history with 400 rebounds in a season.
  • Marcus Paige has made 292 3-pointers in his career. He is already #1, but could be the first Tar Heel to hit 300.

Syracuse Starters

Player Ht Wt MPG PPG RPG APG FG% 3-PT% FT% TPG SPG BPG
Trevor Cooney 6’4” 195 36.3 12.7 2.5 2.4 34.1 34.9 80.6 1.53 1.58 0.17
Malachi Richardson 6’6” 205 34.3 13.3 4.3 2.1 36.4 35.2 72.7 2.14 1.17 0.28
Michael Gbinije 6’7” 200 37.9 17.6 4.1 4.4 46.8 39.9 66.2 2.81 1.97 0.36
Tyler Roberson 6’8” 226 30.8 9.0 8.4 1.4 48.4 0.00 58.8 1.56 0.78 0.67
DaJuan Coleman 6’9” 268 17.5 4.9 4.7 0.4 54.1 0.00 66.2 1.14 0.69 0.86

Syracuse Key Reserves

Player Ht Wt MPG PPG RPG APG FG% 3-PT% FT% TPG SPG BPG
Tyler Lydon 6’8” 210 30.3 10.2 6.3 1.1 48.4 40.9 78.3 1.28 1.08 1.81
Franklin Howard 6’4” 190 10.6 1.7 1.4 1.8 29.5 11.1 53.8 0.87 0.55 0.13

The Numbers

  North Carolina Syracuse
KenPom Rank 2 22
Points per game 83.0 70.1
Adj. Offensive Efficiency (Rank) 123.1 (1st) 111.1 (50th)
Adj. Defensive Efficiency (Rank) 95.3 (22nd) 94.3 (16th)
Tempo (Rank) 71.4 (62nd) 65.7 (319th)
Field Goal% 48.2 42.6
2P FG% 54.1 47.2
3P FG% 32.1 36.1
3PA% 26.8 42.2
FT% 74.7 69.4
FT Rate 33.0% 35.9
RPG 40.7 35.9
Offensive Reb Rate 40.3% 33.4%
Defensive Reb Rate 70.0% 65.1%
APG 17.8 13.7
BPG 4.4 4.4
SPG 6.8 8.1
TPG 10.7 11.9
TO Rate 15.3% 18.2%

2 X-Factors:

  1. Carolina’s 3 point shooting. In the first two games against Syracuse, the Tar Heels shot 18.8% and 24.0% from downtown. So far in the NCAA Tournament, the Tar Heels, as a team have shot 38.2% (26-68) on 3-pointers. Though they’ve done a good job getting to the middle of the Syracuse zone this year, if Carolina can hit 3s and extend the zone, this game could get ugly.
  2. How do Syracuse’s freshmen handle the Final Four stage? From a Syracuse standpoint, it will be interesting to see how freshmen Malachi Richardson and Tyler Lydon (who have both been playing well) respond to playing in this Final Four atmosphere. Will the lights overwhelm them, or are they too young to know any better? Richardson, while inefficient, has been a big time scorer. Lydon has really come on of late, especially on the defensive end. Although he comes off the bench, Lydon is getting starter’s minutes.

Main Key to the Game:

Though Carolina has been shooting the 3 ball better, the most important piece of this game will be getting Brice Johnson the ball early and often at the free throw line. From there he can take (and make) that 15-footer all day or pick the zone apart. Carolina’s ability (or inability) to get the ball to the middle of the zone most likely determines which of these teams will be playing for the national championship on Monday night.

Soak It Up

This is it. The final weekend of the 2015-16 college basketball season. No matter what happens in NRG Stadium, this will be the final time we will see this edition of the North Carolina Tar Heels. Marcus Paige, Brice Johnson, and Joel James will only pull on their Tar Heel #5, #11, and #42 jerseys once more, maybe (hopefully) twice more. As fans, we find it easy to get wrapped up in defining a season by the final game. Whether or not Carolina can win tomorrow against Syracuse and subsequently knock off Villanova or Oklahoma on Monday night, this will go down as one of my favorite (if not the favorite) teams of all time. So here’s what I want to say: before we get enraptured in the games this weekend, make sure to take time to stop, appreciate this team, and soak it up.

Make sure to think back on the careers and development of Paige, Johnson, and James.

 

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Marcus Paige, Joel James, Brice Johnson, & JP Tokoto with Coach Roy Williams for their freshman picture

 

The biggest thing I’ll remember from this year is the Marcus Paige emotional roller coaster. Here is my stream-of-consciousness thinking of Mr. Paige’s senior year thus far: “Marcus is finally healthy and primed for a huge All-American senior year; reminiscent of his sophomore campaign! He broke his hand. Oh no! Which hand??? His non-shooting hand? Okay. Whew. Dodged a bullet. When will he come back? How will the team play until then? 5-1 with an undesirable, but understandable loss in a true road game at Northern Iowa. How will he look when he finally suits up? 20 points, 5 assists, 2 steals, 1 turnover in 34 minutes at home against Maryland, an early contender for the national championship? We’ll take it. Marcus is ready to go. Then the slump. Poor Marcus. His shot looks so pretty, why won’t it go in? He’s not hitting his free throws either. Oh man he hit a couple 3s this game, he’s back!! Nope he’s not. Well the good news is Marcus is still doing everything else he should as a teammate. I just hate for his senior year to play out this way. Maybe, just maybe he’ll pick up in March. Yes – 4 of 7 from deep against Notre Dame in the ACC semifinals. Here we go. Marcus is on in March. Spoke to soon. 0-7 from deep against Virginia. But man did he do a number guarding Brogdon. 2 solid, but unspectacular, games to start the NCAA tournament. But then Indiana, ohhhhh the Indiana game. With each successive 3 to start the game, I jumped higher and yelled louder. 21 points, 6 assists, 0 turnovers. That’s Marcus Paige. He’s back.” Marcus might score 30 points against Syracuse or he might score 0. The Tar Heels might win and the same stats are possible against Oklahoma/Villanova. Either way, Marcus Paige will be one of my five favorite Tar Heels of all time.

NCAA BASKETBALL: FEB 01 North Carolina at Louisville
February 1, 2016: North Carolina Tar Heels head coach Roy Williams speaks with North Carolina Tar Heels guard Marcus Paige (5) during the game against The Louisville Cardinals and North Carolina Tar Heels at The KFC Yum! Center in Louisville, KY. Louisville defeated North Carolina 71-65. (Photo by Ian Johnson/Icon Sportswire).

Raise your hand if you thought Marcus Paige would have the struggles he’s had this year and yet, the Tar Heels would find themselves in the Final Four as the favorites to cut down the nets. The reason is because of two words: Brice Johnson. Let me use some numbers, so that we can try to wrap our heads around what a historical year he’s had. With his next rebound (just one), Johnson will have 400 for the season and will become the single-season rebounding leader in North Carolina Men’s Basketball history (and is on the doorstep of moving into the top 10 in ACC single season history). Just stop and think about that. For every rebounder that’s ever put on a UNC jersey, he has the most rebounds in any one season. And it’s not just this season. Brice is 1 of only 8 Tar Heels to have 1000 career rebounds. The others on the list are some gentlemen named Hansbrough, Perkins, Lynch, Cunningham, Jamison, Kupchak, and Daugherty. Heard of any of them? He’s currently number 6 on that list and has a realistic shot to move past Antawn Jamison for 5th. And it’s not just the rebounds, it’s also the points. Brice has scored 648 points this year, good to tie him with NBA champion Harrison Barnes’ 2011-12 campaign for 18th in one season. He will definitely continue moving up this list; whether UNC plays 1 or 2 more games will determine exactly how much further. Along similar lines, Johnson has moved into 19th on the career scoring list, again with extremely realistic chances to continue moving up. This also means that this team boasts 2 of the top 20 scorers in Carolina history (Paige is currently at #12). The combination of scoring and rebounding a lot means that Johnson has accumulated 23 double-doubles this season, again the most in a single-season in UNC history. He currently is averaging 17.1 ppg and 10.5 rpg this year. Only 4 Tar Heels have averaged a double-double since 1975-76. Their names? Antawn Jamison, Sean May, Tyler Hansbrough, John Henson. Mr. Brice Johnson, we thank you for giving us one of the greatest single years any player has ever had in Chapel Hill. I think all that yelling Roy has done just might have made a difference.

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I will remember this year as the year that the “not tough” Tar Heels suffered 6 losses (to this point), but only by a combined 22 points. And they never lost by more than 6. And they had a lead at some point in EVERY GAME THEY PLAYED. In fact, the Heels also had a least a tie in the 2nd half of every game they played. Probably the most impressive of these stats is that, of Carolina’s 38 games to date, they’ve held a 2nd half lead in every game but one (@ Virginia).

I will remember the collapse at home to Duke. As that game wore on, and the Heels struggled to create separation, I thought, “there’s no way we lose this game”. However, there were images of Austin Rivers floating in the back of my head. I will readily admit that after that loss, I really wondered what this team would amount to come tournament time. But now we have answer. The Tar Heels of the 2016 ACC Tournament were a thing of beauty. This team is tough.

I will remember this as a Carolina team that returned almost completely intact (we miss you JP!) and added a couple nice pieces in Luke Maye and Kenny Williams. I will remember this as the year that a Carolina team with no “superstars” and possible NCAA sanctions looming moved past several years of uncertainty (early departures after 2011-12, the PJ Hairston debacle, Paige’s injury-riddled junior year, etc), joined together, and rose above it all to make the Final Four with as good a shot as you’re going to get at winning a national championship.

It’s been a great year. We still have 1, maybe 2, games left. So soak it up Tar Heel fans and let’s enjoy this epilogue.

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