For the players on this 2016 Tar Heel basketball team, it’s a tired repetition.
“We’ve had kind of the residual effects from it,” said senior point guard Marcus Paige. “Dealing with questions and stuff that doesn’t really apply to us.
“That stuff happened before us, so we were all frustrated, like, ‘Why are we talking about this when we have all of the new academic standards put in place and we’re going to tutoring sessions and meeting with academic advisers all the time? They’re checking every single thing we do, so why are we in question about all of this?’”
With Syracuse reaching the Final Four a year after being banned from the postseason and with Coach Jim Boeheim suspended for the first nine ACC games this season — in addition to the NCAA’s continued investigation into North Carolina’s athletic-academic scandal — there are sure to be lingering questions this weekend.
And for this particular edition of the UNC basketball team, that comes with more than a bit of irony.
This team resembles the model of NCAA teams of old, led by experienced upperclassmen.
This year, it is the antithesis of almost everything that has plagued the team the majority of the past four seasons — everything that Coach Roy Williams likes to call “all that stuff.”
“All that stuff,” of course, is the athletic-academic scandal, the Wainstein Report and the off-the-court issues with P.J. Hairston and Leslie McDonald during the 2013-14 season.
“It hasn’t always been smooth,” Williams said Sunday after beating Notre Dame. “And even this year ... This was the least appreciated team, really good team, I’ve ever coached. And the most criticized really good team I’ve ever coached.
“I got tired of listening to all that stuff.”
More likely than not, Williams and the Tar Heels will have to deal with the “stuff” again this weekend.
Which brings us back to the irony.
None of the players on this North Carolina team have ever had anything to do with an athletic-academic scandal — and have even been criticized for being a group of “too nice” players, without the fire needed to win.
There’s Paige, the unquestioned leader of the team and the first Tar Heel to earn three Academic All-America honors after his second-team honors in 2014 and 2015 and his first-team selection this year.
There’s also Joel James, who represents the ACC on the NCAA’s National Student-Athlete Advisory Committee and is one of just two men’s basketball players in the nation who serves on the committee.
“To have them continue to question the integrity of our program — especially when we see it being run from a first-class perspective — it’s tough,” Paige said.
The saving grace for North Carolina might be that the “toughness” narrative is one that has already been put to bed.
And that this UNC basketball team, which has continuously addressed the problems it wasn’t the cause of, will manage to be tough for one more weekend.
Still, again, they’ll have to answer the questions.