The North Carolina men's basketball team was bad last season — a record-breaking level of bad. Last year marked head coach Roy Williams' lone losing season through his collegiate tenure, and the Tar Heels — in part due to a running list of injuries — never found a way to click on the court.
What began as a promising season after UNC started 5-0 — including an ACC win over Notre Dame in the season opener — quickly fell apart as the Tar Heels faced higher levels of competition. A 74-49 loss to Ohio State in the ACC/Big Ten Challenge was a harbinger for the struggles the Tar Heels would face for the remainder of the campaign.
Despite an appalling run filled with bad injuries and plays from opponents, it wasn’t all gloom and doom for the 2019-2020 Tar Heel squad. Here’s a breakdown of the good, the bad and the ugly from last season:
Despite the woes of 2020, UNC escaped without losing to N.C. State. The Tar Heels lengthened their win-streak over the Wolfpack to five games, fueling the ever-contentious rivalry debate with their ACC foes from Raleigh.
Forward Garrison Brooks offered another rare bright spot for the Tar Heels in his junior campaign. Brooks racked up an average of 16.4 points and 8.7 rebounds per game on his way to earning second-team All-ACC honors and the Most Improved Player award from the conference.
The Tar Heels also managed to put together a three-game win streak toward the end of the season, showing signs of improvement before the flames were put out by a deflating 13-point loss to Duke at the end of the regular season.
North Carolina was plagued with injuries to key players, deflating a team with an already-shallow rotation. The Tar Heels had an ever-rotating injury list, with nine players starting three or more games due to injuries on the roster. Most notably, UNC struggled to find consistent point guard play with first-year Cole Anthony missing a number of games due to a knee injury.
The Tar Heels also became uncomfortably familiar with the buzzer-beater in 2020, having the nail hit in the coffin against them in multiple closely fought losses. UNC lost a total of six games by 3 points or less.
Players like Boston College's Jared Hamilton and Virginia's Tomas Woldetensae made names for themselves on last second shots in the Dean Dome, and visions of Tre Jones and Wendell Moore Jr.'s last second shots for Duke will live in infamy in Chapel Hill for years to come.
Despite the high number of buzzer-beaters, the Tar Heels endured their fair share of blowout losses as well, including four losses by 15 or more points. North Carolina suffered a season-ending 28-point blowout loss to Syracuse in one of the final live sporting events before COVID-19 led to the cancellation of the ACC and NCAA Tournaments.
The 2019-20 basketball season will leave a blemish on North Carolina basketball's record book. In addition to being the only losing season of Williams' career, last season also resulted in the second-worst record for the Tar Heels this century.
The season also brought an end to UNC's 59-game home winning streak against Clemson. The streak spanned 94 years, an NCAA-record losing streak against a single opponent for the Tigers. The Tar Heels lost to Clemson in overtime — a crowning jewel in a devastating season.
While last year was a struggle, returning players like Brooks and forward Armando Bacot could combine with an elite class of first-years to bring UNC back to the pinnacle of college basketball despite this season's COVID-19-based changes.
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