Yeah, those guys who you are on a first-name basis with. Those guys whose jerseys you wear. Those guys who want nothing more than to bring back a trophy to Chapel Hill.
They could have lain down. This team could have said, “We had our chance, and we’ll never climb the mountain again. It’s not in us. We climbed to the top, took a glance at the prize and were shoved abruptly to the floor.”
But they didn’t.
They laced up their sneakers, tucked away the memories of yesterday and swore to ascend that same mountain — where they could look down from the summit before stretching their hands out to cut down the nets.
They didn’t just cope without Tar Heel legends Marcus Paige and Brice Johnson, they filled their shoes. They didn’t just win the ACC regular-season title, they were crowned champions with a two-game cushion. They didn’t just get back to the Final Four, they did it in dramatic fashion.
Each of the other three teams boasts a great, feel-good sports story. South Carolina is a true Cinderella, Gonzaga believes it doesn’t get enough respect and Oregon hasn’t been this far since the first ever Final Four.
And while UNC’s narrative of redemption might be the most powerful of all, it’s not because of numbers or figures. It’s because of the hearts and determination of the boys in Carolina Blue.
They got punched in the face and got back up. They didn’t ask for pity. They didn’t even think twice. They ran unabashed and find themselves once more at the precipice of glory.
Yes, there’s a chance that after one of the next two games, you may find yourself once more throwing your phone, swearing like a sailor and disavowing the team you held so dear.
But never lose sight of the grand story playing out in front of you. Remember that this season isn’t defined by two more wins; rather, it’s already been defined by the journey this team has taken.
From their knees in Houston, shaken and bewildered, to their feet in Phoenix, hopeful and determined.
In my book, this Tar Heel team has already won.