Heading into Monday’s NCAA championship, North Carolina’s last loss was on Feb. 27 against Virginia. But the most important game for the No. 1-seed Tar Heels is its national title game against No.2-seed Villanova.
UNC (33-6) has played some of its best basketball this postseason. Here’s a look at the team’s path from the beginning of the ACC tournament:
ACC tournament quarterfinals
UNC 88, Pitt 71
The Tar Heels entered the ACC tournament as the No. 1 seed, after finishing 14-4 in the conference, which earned them byes in the first and second rounds.
Their first opponent was No. 8 seed Pittsburgh, in a game that proved to not be very tough. UNC shot 59 percent from the floor, and won easily 88-71.
Joel Berry led the way with 20 points and scored 7 of 8 field goals. His only miss was a three-pointer. Brice Johnson had a double-double, finishing with 18 points and 10 rebounds.
ACC tournament semifinals
UNC 78, Notre Dame 47
The Tar Heels next opponent was the same team they’d go on to beat in the Elite 8 of the NCAA tournament: Notre Dame.
The Fighting Irish, 21-11 at the time, had advanced to the semifinals of the ACC tournament, by staging a 84-79 comeback overtime win against Duke in the quarterfinals.
They were looking to do the same to UNC. But the Tar Heels didn’t let that happen.
While their hot shooting didn’t carry over from the previous game, the Tar Heels locked down on defense, holding Notre Dame to only 47 points. Notre Dame shot 30 percent from the floor as a team.
The Tar Heels used that to their advantage and at one point scored 24 straight points en route to a 78-47 win.
ACC tournament final
UNC 61, Virginia 57
Heading into the championship game, the Tar Heels were looking to avoid losing again to Virginia. The Cavaliers had beaten the Tar Heels 79-74 on Feb. 29.
The result of this contest was much different, however.
The game was close throughout, but with UNC’s stout defense and some clutch shots by Berry, the Tar Heels won 61-57 and earned their first ACC title since 2008. Virginia was held scoreless for eight minutes in the second half, which allowed UNC to get a lead and never let it go.
That ACC tournament championship win was an important one; it solidified their No. 1 seeding in the NCAA tournament.
NCAA tournament: First round
UNC 83, Florida Gulf Coast 67
Expectations were high for the Tar Heels heading into the NCAA tournament. To add on to that, President Barack Obama picked them to make it to the championship game but lose.
The Tar Heels played a 16-seed, Florida Gulf-Coast in the first round. And early on, FGC played more like a 13-seed going for the upset.
The Eagles were shooting 60 percent from the floor and had out-rebounded UNC 21-14 in the first half.
The Tar Heels led 41-40 going into halftime.
But in the second half, however, Florida Gulf-Coast ran out of gas as UNC turned up its defensive intensity. Brice Johnson led the effort with eight blocks. .
A couple of key back-to-back possessions, including a 3 by Marcus Paige and a defensive stop by Joel Berry, started a run that got the Tar Heels out to a 20 point lead.
UNC ended up winning 83-67.
NCAA tournament: Second round
UNC 85, Providence 66,
No. 9 seed Providence was coming off a thrilling win over Southern California, in which forward Rodney Bullock hit a buzzer-beating layup from an in-bound pass under the basket.
Riding high from that win, Providence senior guard Kris Dunn was a lot to handle for UNC. He came out firing before getting into foul trouble halfway through the first half. He finished the game with 29 points and Providence only trailed four points 34-30 at halftime.
But the Tar Heels second-half adjustment of putting guard Justin Jackson on Dunn did the trick. Jackson’s length disrupted the Big East Player of the Year’s rhythm.
UNC pulled ahead and won 85-66. Brice Johnson had another good game with 21 points, 10 rebounds, and a block he sent flying so far, it ended up in the second row of the press section.
NCAA tournament: Sweet 16
UNC 101, Indiana 86
This matchup featured two of the best senior guards in the country: UNC’s Marcus Paige and Indiana’s Yogi Ferrell. And it didn’t disappoint.
Paige finished with 21 points, while Ferrell dropped 25. But UNC was just a little too much for Indiana as they went on to win 101-86. The lead remained in double digits throughout the second half.
The Hoosiers entered the game having made nearly 42 percent of their 3s this season.
But it was the Tar Heels’ shooting, combined with their ability to turn turnovers into points, that made the difference early and allowed the Tar Heels to separate themselves. UNC during the first half made seven of its eight 3-point attempts and shot 62.1 percent overall, its fourth-highest percentage in a half this season.
UNC finished the game making 11 of 20 3s.
NCAA tournament: Elite 8
UNC 88, Notre Dame 74
The Elite 8 was a rematch of the ACC tournament semifinals, where UNC crushed Notre Dame 78-47.
But this game wasn’t nearly as lopsided.
In the first half, the teams went shot for shot and with both shooting over 58 percent and neither leading by more than six points.
UNC, however, used a 12-0 run in the second half to push its lead to 11 with nine minutes remaining. UNC held off Notre Dame to advance to their 19th Final Four and first since 2009.
UNC 83, Syracuse 66
UNC faced its second ACC opponent in two weeks in a familiar matchup against Syracuse. The Tar Heels had beaten the Orange twice earlier in the season: 84-73 on Jan. 9 and 75-70 on Feb. 29.
But the Syracuse team that overachieved in the NCAA tournament by being the first No. 10 seed to make it to the Final Four, finally found its match.
In the first half, UNC’s hot three-point shooting performance during the tournament wasn’t there.
By halftime, UNC was 0-11 in 3-point attempts – a somewhat high number of tries for a team that doesn’t base much of its offense on perimeter shooting. And yet the Tar Heels still they led 39-28 at halftime.
Those 3s, however, started to drop for the Tar Heels in the second half as they made 4 of 6.
UNC’s 17-point lead dwindled to 7, but the 3s, including two from Paige and another from Theo Pinson, came in handy.