North Carolina's college basketball championships
North Carolina has won six NCAA men's Division I college basketball championships:
- 1957 (defeated Kansas, 54-53 (3OT))
- 1982 (defeated Georgetown, 63-62)
- 1993 (defeated Michigan, 77-71)
- 2005 (defeated Illinois, 75-70)
- 2009 (defeated Michigan State, 89-72)
- 2017 (defeated Gonzaga, 71-65)
The following is a season-by-season look at each of these championships, including stats, rosters, full-game replays and a game-by-game recap of each season.
We begin with the 1956-57 season. North Carolina made its first appearance in the national championship game in 1946, when the Tar Heels fell 43-40 to what's now known as Oklahoma State. It took 11 more years until they won a national title.
The 1957 North Carolina Tar Heels were the second undefeated national champion in the history of NCAA Division I men's basketball. The Tar Heels ran the table, going 32-0, one year after San Francisco won the 1956 national championship with a 29-0 record.
North Carolina went 14-0 in conference play, then the Tar Heels defeated Clemson, Wake Forest and South Carolina to win the conference tournament. In the NCAA tournament, North Carolina defeated Yale, Canisius, Syracuse, Michigan State and Kansas, with the team's last two wins in the tournament both coming in triple-overtime.
Here's everything you need to know about the 1956-57 Tar Heels.
Coach: Frank McGuire
Record: 32-0 (14-0)
Conference Finish: 1st
Conference Tournament Finish: Won conference tournament
North Carolina's roster turnover before the 1956-57 season
North Carolina lost three players from its 1955-56 team, which went 18-5, and two of them made a very small statistical impact.
- Jerry Vayda, 6-4: 9.7 ppg, 5.9 rpg
- Hilliard Greene, 6-5: 1.1 ppg, 1.0 rpg
- Gerry McCabe, 6-3: 0.3 ppg, 1.3 rpg
The Tar Heels then added the following players to their varsity roster for the 1956-57 season:
- Bill Hathaway, 6-11: 2.9 ppg, 5.0 rpg
- Stan Groll, 6-0: 2.1 ppg, 1.5 rpg
- Danny Lotz, 6-7: 1.0 ppg, 1.6 rpg
- Gehrmann Holland, 6-1: 0.7 ppg, 0.5 rpg
North Carolina's roster from the 1956-57 season
North Carolina's player stats from the 1956-57 season
Scroll to the right to view the complete stats.
North Carolina's AP Top 25 poll rankings from 1956-57
The 1957 NCAA tournament bracket
The 1957 NCAA tournament ended with North Carolina winning its first national title in a 54-53 triple-overtime win against Wilt Chamberlain and Kansas.
UNC's Lennie Rosenbluth led all tournament scorers with 140 points. Both of the Tar Heels' final four wins came in three overtimes — the first was against Michigan State in the semifinals. North Carolina finished the season undefeated at 32-0.
1957 NCAA tournament: Bracket
North Carolina's complete 1956-57 schedule breakdown
Dec. 4, 1956 — North Carolina 94, Furman 66
Lennie Rosenbluth scored 47 points in North Carolina's season opener but Tar Heels coach Frank McGuire used his post-game press conference to credit Bill Hathaway, who scored just three points. "[Bill] Hathaway is the best thing that ever happened to Joe Quigg," McGuire said, according to The Charlotte News. "I don't mean to take anything away from Rosenbluth's performance, it was marvelous. But it was [Joe] Quigg who broke the game open for us."
Dec. 8, 1956 — North Carolina 94, Clemson 75
Pete Brennan scored 28 points, just two more than teammate Lennie Rosenbluth, as North Carolina never trailed as the Tar Heels made 19 of their first 25 shots. North Carolina led by 15 at halftime and by as many as 30.
Dec. 12, 1956 — North Carolina 82, George Washington 55
Led by Lennie Rosenbluth's 27 points as NC State fell for the second game in a row, spurring The Daily Journal of Vineland, New Jersey, to write, "This may be the year North Carolina's Tar Heels finally shake loose from North Carolina State's shadow in college basketball."
Dec. 15, 1956 — North Carolina 90, South Carolina 86 (OT)
After bad weather prevented North Carolina from flying to Columbia, South Carolina, the Tar Heels had to drive, arriving at 5:30 p.m. They then needed overtime to escape their southern neighbors. "They have a good ball club," North Carolina coach Frank McGuire said, according to The News and Observer. "They have a new spirit since that victory over [N.C.] State. That Wallace was sensational against us — threw the ball through the basket just like it had eyes. Fortunately for us Tommy Kearns had a good night. I guess it was the best of his career."
Dec. 17, 1956 — North Carolina 70, Maryland 61
The Tar Heels claimed sole possession of the ACC standings with a 3-0 conference record. Despite the Terrapins' ability to hold Tar Heels star Lennie Rosenbluth scoreless for the game's opening 16 minutes, he scored 15 points in the last four minutes as North Carolina took a 14-point lead into halftime and Maryland never pulled within seven points after halftime.
Dec. 20, 1956 — North Carolina 64, NYU 59
For the second game in a row, North Carolina's Lennie Rosenbluth was held scoreless for a long period. He didn't score in the first 30 minutes of the game and finished with just nine points and only one field goal. The Tar Heels needed big performances from Bob Cunningham and bench player Joe Quigg in order to beat NYU, which The Evening Sun of Baltimore, Maryland described as "so-so."
Dec. 21, 1956 — North Carolina 89, Dartmouth 61
Thanks to a 30-point game, Lennie Rosenbluth left the game against Dartmouth with 1,333 points in his career, setting a new school record. He made 12-of-13 free throws in the win. North Carolina held every Dartmouth player to 10 points or fewer.
Dec. 22, 1956 — North Carolina 83, Holy Cross 70
Pete Brennan's free throws put North Carolina ahead 59-58 with about eight minutes left, then he added a three-point play and a layup as the Tar Heels quickly built a 10-point lead. Their only lead in the first half was by a 35-33 margin as they trailed the Crusaders by as many as 13 points early on in the first half.
Dec. 27, 1956 — North Carolina 97, Utah 76
In the opening round of the Dixie Classic, Lennie Rosenbluth scored 36 points with a team-high 14 rebounds and center Joe Quigg added 21 on 7-of-8 shooting and 10 rebounds as North Carolina never trailed to Utah. He had a balanced scoring night, scoring 18 points in both halves. The News and Observer's Dick Herbert wrote that the Tar Heels were "given the most support as the pre-tourney favorite" as they then advanced to the semifinals of the Dixie Classic, which also featured Duke, NC State and Wake Forest.
Dec. 28, 1956 — North Carolina 87, Duke 71
Lennie Rosenbluth scored 32 points and Tommy Kearns added 21 as Duke's plan to double-team Rosenbluth wasn't too effective. The Tar Heels quickly built a 20-6 lead in the first eight minutes, they led 43-32 at half and the Blue Devils switched to a pressing man defense that switched its focus to Rosenbluth when the ball moved in his direction. That's when the Tar Heels' other scorers would hurt the Blue Devils as they shot 46 percent for the game. "That's what I like about this ball club," North Carolina coach Frank McGuire said, according to the Rocky Mount Telegram of Rocky Mount, North Carolina. "All these boys are good shooters. Any one of them can get you out of trouble."
Dec. 29, 1956 — North Carolina 63, Wake Forest 55
Before the game, North Carolina coach Frank McGuire knew that Wake Forest planned to play a box-and-one defense against Lennie Rosenbluth. But he still scored a game-high 18 points and 12 rebounds, including 12-of-13 shooting from the free-throw line, which balanced out an offensive performance that included just three field goals. Rosenbluth was named the Dixie Classic's most outstanding player. The Tar Heels opened the game with a 6-0 lead and the Demon Deacons never pulled within five points after that. "The tall defenders had too many hands in their faces and the shooting for the first half was a poor 20.7 per cent [sic] accuracy," wrote The News and Observer's Dick Herbert.
Jan. 8, 1957 — North Carolina 71, William & Mary 61
William & Mary led for the entire first half thanks to 48 percent shooting but North Carolina cut the deficit to 28-26 at halftime, then tied the game with seven free throws in a row early in the second half. North Carolina's Lennie Rosenbluth made just one field goal and finished with 10 points but teammate Pete Brennan scored a team-high 20 points, while Joe Quigg added 18 and Tommy Kearns had 14. North Carolina dominated the boards with a plus-15 advantage.
Jan. 11, 1957 — North Carolina 86, Clemson 54
After almost a month of playing road games, North Carolina played a home game in Chapel Hill and dominated Clemson. Lennie Rosenbluth improved his season scoring average by dropping 34 points after playing all 40 minutes. The Tar Heels led just 22-20 but an 11-0 run helped them pull away. "Between close guarding and Carolina's superior height constantly staring them in the face, the Tigers weren't able to get many good shots," wrote The News and Observer's Joe Tiedel.
Jan. 12, 1957 — North Carolina 102, Virginia 90
North Carolina dropped 58 points in the first half to take a 28-point lead into halftime after making seven shots before Virginia made its first basket. At one point, the score was 45-12 in favor of the Tar Heels. Remarkably, Virginia scored 60 points in the second half on 61 percent shooting but the Cavaliers' deficit from the first half was too great to overcome. Lennie Rosenbluth had 30 points and 12 rebounds, while Pete Brennan, Tommy Kearns and Joe Quigg each scored at least 15 points.
Jan. 15, 1957 — North Carolina 83, NC State 57
"The fact that Carolina has to be the favorite Tuesday rates as an astonishing feature itself. It's been a long time since the Wolfpack has been an underdog on its home court," reported The News and Observer prior to the game. NC State star John Richter had suffered a sprained ankle and didn't play as North Carolina won on NC State's home floor, "successfully bucked the ACC's tag of 'a home court league,'" according to the AP. The Tar Heels scored 43 points at the free throw line.
Feb. 5, 1957 — North Carolina 65, Maryland 61 (2OT)
In a game described by The News and Observer as North Carolina's "hardest game of the season," the Tar Heels went to College Park, Maryland, and won in double-overtime after the score was tied 30-all at halftime and 53-53 at the end of regulation. Lennie Rosenbluth scored 25 points before fouling out amid North Carolina rallying from a four-point deficit. The Tar Heels blocked the Terrapins' final shot attempt in regulation but they were unable to get their own potential game-winning shot off at the end of regulation. Neither team led by more than four the entire game.
Feb. 9, 1957 — North Carolina 75, Duke 73
Despite recently losing three players due to academic or eligibility reasons, leaving its roster with just 10 players, North Carolina beat Duke by two points. Tommy Kearns' free throws with 16 seconds left — after he missed five in a row — gave the Tar Heels the decisive edge after trailing by five at halftime. "With the UNC reserve strength so hard hit, there is a lot of room to doubt that the Tar Heels can win the remainder of their games, including last night's with Duke," wrote the Rocky Mount Telegram sports editor Bob Williams.
Feb. 11, 1957 — North Carolina 68, Virginia 59
Despite Virginia entering this ACC matchup with a 4-12 record, the Cavaliers led 30-26 at halftime as North Carolina's Tommy Kearns scored all 15 of his points in the second half to help the Tar Heels take a 37-36 lead within three minutes of the second half. North Carolina got to the foul line 41 times and made 30 of them.
Feb. 13, 1957 — North Carolina 72, Wake Forest 69
North Carolina won its 20th game in a row during the 1956-57 season as it fought off defeat in recent weeks, winning recent games by just four, two, seven and three points. Wake Forest fought back from an 11-point deficit to within one point of North Carolina but North Carolina's Tommy Kearns made a basket to put the Tar Heels ahead 70-67. Lennie Rosenbluth led the team with 24 points and 10 rebounds.
Feb. 19, 1957 — North Carolina 86, NC State 57
For the second time of the season, North Carolina beat rival NC State by more than 25 points. "The tall Tar Heels assumed a commanding lead in the first six minutes and at no time got a serious challenge from the Wolfpack," wrote The News and Observer's Dick Herbert. North Carolina took a 10-point lead early in the game and stifled NC State's offense with its zone defense. It was the worst ACC loss under NC State coach Everett Case in his then-11-year tenure at the school.
Feb. 22, 1957 — North Carolina 75, South Carolina 62
Despite South Carolina's Grady Wallace, the nation's leading scorer, only scoring two points in the first half, the Gamecocks led 37-35 at halftime but thanks in part to center Joe Quigg. He was benched in the first half after having a 103-degree fever but saw the floor after halftime and the Tar Heels won by double-digits. "That just shows you how much Quigg means to us up front there," North Carolina coach Frank McGuire said, according to The Charlotte News. "We had to use him. He made a great difference."
Feb. 26, 1957 — North Carolina 69, Wake Forest 64
In front of a then largest-ever crowd at a Wake Forest basketball game (8,200 fans), Wake Forest led 64-63 in the final minute when North Carolina worked the ball to Lennie Rosenbluth, who took a shot and was fouled. Rosenbluth made both free throws, giving the Tar Heels a 65-64 advantage. Bob Cunningham then got a steal, which led to a free throw from Pete Brennan. "Carolina's perfect record for this basketball season was within 46 seconds of death here tonight," wrote The News and Observer's Dick Herbert.
March 1, 1957 — North Carolina 86, Duke 72
The Tar Heels completed an undefeated regular season by beating the Blue Devils in Durham. "This is what we wanted — an undefeated season," said North Carolina coach Frank McGuire, according to The News and Observer. "Now if we lose in the tournament, well, we'll just enjoy the other games." North Carolina finished atop the ACC standings by five games over Maryland.
March 7, 1957 (ACC tournament) – North Carolina 81, Clemson 61
North Carolina's Lennie Rosenbluth dropped 45 points as the Tar Heels beat the Tigers by 20 points in the first round of the ACC tournament as Rosenbluth set records for points and field goals (19) in an ACC tournament game. "We know we'll have a tough game," North Carolina coach Frank McGuire said of North Carolina's second-round game, according to the Rocky Mount Telegram. "We didn't take this game tonight for granted. We look for every game to be tough."
March 8, 1957 (ACC tournament) – North Carolina 61, Wake Forest 59
"The giant still breathes but it's panting hard," wrote The News and Observer's Jack Breibart after North Carolina beat Wake Forest by two in the ACC tournament semifinals. For the second time in North Carolina's last four games, Wake Forest had the Tar Heels on the ropes in the final minute. The Demon Deacons led 59-58 before Lennie Rosenbluth sank a hook shot, then made a free throw after being fouled, to put North Carolina up 61-59. Rosenbluth finished with 23 points and eight rebounds.
March 9, 1957 (ACC tournament) – North Carolina 95, South Carolina 75
North Carolina won the ACC tournament behind Lennie Rosenbluth's 38 points, which caused Governor Luther Hodges of North Carolina to climb out of the stands and shake Rosenbluth's hand when the latter checked out of the game. Rosenbluth's three-game tournament total of 106 points was 27 more than the previous record. North Carolina led 50-23 at halftime in what The Greenville News called "one of the most amazing displays in tournament basketball history."
March 12, 1957 (NCAA tournament) — North Carolina 90, Yale 74
Lennie Rosenbluth picked up his fourth foul with 12 minutes to play with North Carolina trailing 62-60 but the Tar Heels rattled off a 14-5 run led by Bob Cunningham and Joe Quigg. Yale employed a pressing zone defense that gave North Carolina fits and the Bulldogs led for most of the first half but the Tar Heels tied the game at 40. When Yale's stout defender Johnny Lee left the game, North Carolina capitalized on offense, even without Rosenbluth, who then returned to the floor and scored seven more points to finish with a game-high 29 points.
March 15, 1957 (NCAA tournament) — North Carolina 87, Canisius 75
Lennie Rosenbluth exploded for 39 points, including 23 in the first half, as North Carolina advanced to the Eastern Regional championship to set a single-game scoring record inside the Palestra. The Tar Heels shot 50 percent from the floor but the Canisius Griffins hung with them, leading 23-22 through 12 and a half minutes. A 12-0 run gave North Carolina a 39-25 lead at halftime and the Tar Heels posted a plus-11 rebounding margin from their 2-1-2 zone.
March 17, 1957 (NCAA tournament) — North Carolina 67, Syracuse 58
North Carolina once again capitalized at the free-throw line, making 33 free throws as Lennie Rosenbluth scored 23 and Tommy Kearns had 22. Rosenbluth was voted the most valuable player in the Eastern Regional.
March 22, 1957 (NCAA tournament) — North Carolina 74, Michigan State 70 (3OT)
North Carolina won a marathon of a game, beating Michigan State by four in triple-overtime. Tommy Kearns' free throws put the Tar Heels ahead 72-68 with a minute and 46 seconds left in triple-overtime, then Lennie Rosenbluth, who scored 31 points, stole the ball and Bob Young made a basket to put North Carolina at 74 points. Neither team led by more than six points. "We were lucky," North Carolina coach Frank McGuire said, according to The Gastonia (N.C.) Gazette. "Ordinarily, nine times out of ten we would have lost a game like this. But we've been playing like a team of destiny all year."
March 23, 1957 (NCAA tournament) — North Carolina 54, Kansas 53 (3OT)
In a meeting between the country's No. 1 and No. 2-ranked teams, North Carolina won its first-ever national championship by beating Kansas and Wilt Chamberlain thanks to North Carolina center Joe Quigg's free throws with six seconds left in triple-overtime. Playing in front of a sellout crowd of 10,500 fans, most of whom supported Kansas given that the championship was played in Kansas City, the Tar Heels affirmed their No. 1 ranking, despite leading scorer Lennie Rosenbluth fouling out near the end of regulation. North Carolina out-rebounded Kansas 42-28 and shot 46.7 percent from the field. Newspaper reports noted that the Tar Heels stalled in overtime without Rosenbluth on the floor, waiting for "sure shots," according to the Asheville (N.C.) Citizen-Times. Kansas' Gene Elstun gave Kansas a one-point lead 53-52 with a free throw with 28 seconds left. The Jayhawks never led by more than three points.
"He came through when we needed him," North Carolina coach Frank McGuire said of Joe Quigg, according to the Asheville Citizen-Times. "He has been a fine player for us all season. Our plans for the game went as we expected them, with a collapsing defense against Kansas' great player, Chamberlain. We thought it worked very well."
Individual player awards, honors
- 1957 Helms Foundation Player of the Year
- 1957 consensus First Team All-American
- 1957 ACC Player of the Year
- 1957 First Team All-ACC
- No. 10 jersey retired by North Carolina
- 1957 First Team All-ACC
- 1957 Second Team All-ACC
North Carolina players drafted into the NBA
1957 NBA Draft
- No. 6 – Lennie Rosenbluth, Philadelphia Warriors
1958 NBA Draft
- No. 5 – Pete Brennan, New York Knicks
- No. 12 – Joe Quigg, New York Knicks
- No. 30 – Tommy Kearns, Syracuse Nationals
1981-82 North Carolina Tar Heels Quick Facts
It took 25 years for North Carolina to become a two-time national champion after the Tar Heels ran the table during the 1957 season. A freshman by the name of Michael Jordan, alongside James Worthy and Sam Perkins, had a string of narrow NCAA tournament victories — two points, five points, 10 points, five points and one point — to give North Carolina its second title and legendary coach Dean Smith his first.
Here's everything you need to know about North Carolina's 1982 national championship team.
Coach: Dean Smith
Record: 32-2 (12-2)
Conference Finish: 1st
Conference Tournament Finish: Conference tournament champion
NCAA Tournament Seed: No. 1 seed
NCAA Tournament Region: East Region
North Carolina's roster turnover before the 1981-82 season
North Carolina had a strong team in the 1980-81 season as the Tar Heels went 29-8, finishing second in the ACC with a 10-4 record and earning a No. 2 seed in the NCAA tournament, which resulted in a national runner-up finished to Indiana. The Tar Heels graduated four seniors after the 1981 season:
- Al Wood, 6-6, guard: 18.1 ppg, 6.3 rpg
- Mike Pepper, 6-3, guard: 6.1 ppg, 1.5 rpg, 1.4 apg
- Pete Budko, 6-9, center: 2.0 ppg, 3.2 rpg
- Eric Kenny, 6-6, forward: 1.0 ppg, 0.7 rpg
North Carolina enrolled five freshmen in the fall of 1981:
- Michael Jordan, 6-6, guard
- Buzz Peterson, 6-5, guard
- Lynwood Robinson, 6-1, guard
- Warren Martin, 6-11, center
- John Brownlee, 6-10, center
North Carolina's roster from the 1981-82 season
North Carolina's player stats from the 1981-82 season
Scroll to the right to view the complete stats.
Here are North Carolina's AP Top 25 poll rankings from 1981-82
The 1982 NCAA tournament bracket
North Carolina defeated Georgetown for the title, 63-62, for the Tar Heels' second championship — and coach Dean Smith's first.
James Worthy picked up Most Outstanding Player honors. Houston and Louisville also made the Final Four that year in New Orleans. UNC's Michael Jordan, a freshman, hit what ended up being the game-winning shot with 17 seconds to play.
1982 NCAA tournament: Bracket