Welcome back, North Carolina.
One year after falling short in one of the best national championship games in history, the No. 1 seeded Tar Heels are continuing their redemption tour. Next stop: Phoenix. UNC started off the tournament this year with the biggest blowout of the tournament (39 points) over 16-seed Texas Southern. Arkansas gave UNC a run for its money in the second round, and walk-on Luke Maye gave the nation a shot to remember as he and North Carolina downed 2-seed Kentucky 75-73 on a last-second shot in the Elite Eight.
Now, UNC is back in the Final Four for a record 20th time.
Before they tip off against 3-seed Oregon Saturday night, here’s everything you need to know about the program.
Main campus: Chapel Hill, N.C. (pop. 59,653)
Undergraduate Enrollment: 18,415
Year founded: 1789
School colors: Carolina blue and white
U.S. News & World Report national rank: No. 30
Tuition and fees: $8,834 (in-state); $33,916 (out-of-state)
Notable alumni: James K. Polk (11th president of the United States), Roy Cooper (current governor of North Carolina), Thomas Wolfe (author), Andy Griffith (actor), Stuart Scott (broadcaster), Charles Kuralt (journalist), Roy Williams (UNC head coach), Mia Hamm (soccer player)
Traditions: If there’s one thing that UNC basketball is known for — besides its five national titles, Dean Smith, Michael Jordan, etc. — it’s the Tar Heels storied rivalry with the school just down the road: Duke. The two teams first met in 1920, when UNC won 36-25. The Tar Heels have won the matchup more than 100 times in the years since, and as of late, after every one of those wins, students rush Franklin — sprinting to the heart of Chapel Hill’s downtown and celebrating in the streets, often times with bonfires. After every game, win or lose, the UNC faithful sing the school’s Alma Mater, “Hark the Sound,” which ends with the adored fight song “Tar Heel Born.” As for the school's symbol, the Old Well, tradition dictates that a sip from its fountain on the first day of class will guarantee straight A's for the semester. Jury's still out on that one.
Basketball at North Carolina
Team nickname: Tar Heels
Conference affiliation: ACC
Home arena: Dean E. Smith Center
Coach: Roy Williams
Coaching record: 814-216; 29 seasons (396-115; 14th season at North Carolina)
NCAA tournament appearances: 1941, 1946, 1957, 1959, 1967, 1968, 1969, 1972, 1975, 1976, 1977, 1978, 1979, 1980, 1981, 1982, 1983, 1984, 1985, 1986, 1987, 1988, 1989, 1990, 1991, 1992, 1993, 1994, 1995, 1996, 1997, 1998, 1999, 2000, 2001, 2004, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2008, 2009, 2011, 2012, 2013, 2014, 2015, 2016, 2017
Best NCAA tournament finish: NCAA tournament champions (1957, 1982, 1993, 2005, 2009).
Notable pre-NCAA tournament wins: No. 16 Wisconsin (Nov. 23), No. 9 Florida State (Jan. 14), No. 20 Notre Dame (Feb. 5), No. 14 Virginia (Feb. 18), No. 7 Louisville (Feb. 22), No. 17 Duke (Mar. 4).
How the Tar Heels got here: Seeded No. 1 in the South. Win over No. 16 Texas Southern in first round, 103-64; Win over No. 8 Arkansas in second round, 72-65; Win over No. 4 Butler in Sweet 16, 92-80; Win over No. 2 Kentucky in Elite Eight, 75-73.
Next up: No. 3 Oregon (Final Four)
Head-to-head vs. Oregon: UNC is 4-0 against Oregon all time, winning by an average of 24.8 points per game.
How the Tar Heels rank
NCAA tournament overall seed (1-68): No. 3
RPI: No. 5
SOS: No. 11
Points per 100 possessions: 121.4 (6th in the nation)
Points allowed per 100 possessions: 93.6 (18th in the nation)
Possessions per 40 minutes: 70.9 (50th in the nation)
The 2016-17 Tar Heels
G Joel Berry II (6-0, junior, Apopka, Fla.): 14.6 ppg, 3.1 rpg, 3.6 apg
The junior guard has emerged this season as the leader of the Tar Heels after senior guard Marcus Paige graduated in 2016. Berry is shooting 44 percent from the field and 39 percent from three this year, but is playing with two injured ankles, and his status for Saturday’s Final Four matchup is up in the air, though it would be hard to imagine the “tough little nut” — as Roy Williams calls him — missing the biggest game UNC’s season so far.
G Theo Pinson (6-6, junior, Greensboro, N.C.): 6.0 ppg, 4.2 rpg, 3.7 apg
Pinson missed the first half of the season with a broken foot, then sat out three more games after rolling his ankle, but the junior has made the most of his time on the court since. Pinson is the sparkplug for the Tar Heels, providing more energy and enthusiasm than should be possible, though that eagerness sometimes leads to careless mistakes. In the Elite Eight matchup against Kentucky, for example, Pinson made several costly turnovers, but also provided clutch defensive plays, steals and, most noteworthy, the assist on the game-winning shot.
G Justin Jackson (6-8, junior, Tomball, Texas): 18.2 ppg, 4.7 rpg, 2.8 apg
In the storied history of North Carolina basketball, there are few things that some player, at some point, hasn’t done. But before this year, no UNC player had ever hit 100 three pointers in a season. Enter: Justin Jackson. In his freshman and sophomore campagins, Jackson totaled just 63 threes. This year, he has 101, shooting a career-high 38 percent from beyond the arc. The ACC Player of the Year (and AP All-American) improved nearly every stat, and when he gets hot, he can single-handedly turn a game into a blowout.
F Kennedy Meeks (6-10, senior, Charlotte, N.C.): 12.3 ppg, 9.3 rpg, 1.2 bpg
Averaging nearly a double-double is no easy feat, but that’s what the Tar Heels’ veteran big man has done this year. Meeks is an absolute vacuum on the glass, recording 140 offensive rebounds this year alone (five DI schools have collected fewer than 200 offensive boards as a team this year).
F Isaiah Hicks (6-9, senior, Oxford, N.C.): 12.1 ppg, 5.4 rpg, 1.4 apg
Hicks is averaging double-digit points for the first time in his career and hitting a team-high 59.6 percent of his shots, but he also averages 3.1 personal fouls per game. If he can stay out of foul trouble, he can be a huge asset on the offensive and defensive end.
First off the bench
F Luke Maye (6-8, sophomore, Huntersville, N.C.): 5.8 ppg, 4.0 rpg, 1.2 apg
Maye may be a former walk-on, but he sure as heck doesn’t play like one. In the NCAA tournament, Maye — who averages 5.8 points per game — put up 12.5 points and 6.8 rebounds in just 18.5 minutes per game. But it was two of those points that will be remembered for a very long time — the shot that downed Kentucky.
F Tony Bradley (6-11, freshman, Bartow, Fla.): 7.3 ppg, 5.1 rpg, 0.6 bpg
Bradley is the only UNC freshman averaging more than 10 minutes per game, and he’s made the most of his time so far. The rookie is second only to Hicks in field goal percentage (58.9 percent), and averages an impressive 20 points and 13.9 rebounds per 40 minutes.