In the last ten days, Carolina now has two of the best wins of the Roy Williams era. But where, exactly, might they rank among the 240 regular season wins the head coach has amassed in his 10+ seasons in Chapel Hill? Here's one opinion:
No. 1: March 6, 2005: Carolina 75, Duke 73. This isn't just the best regular season win of the Williams era. It's one of the best wins--including the postseason--Carolina has had this century. The comeback against the Blue Devils signified that the Tar Heels were back, and in many ways set the stage for the two national titles that were to follow.
No. 2: March 4, 2006: Carolina 83, Duke 76. Less than a year later, the Tar Heels got another sensational win, and this time they did it on the road, at Cameron Indoor Stadium, on senior day for J.J. Redick and Shelden Williams, against the nationally top-ranked Blue Devils. Do you really need any other reasons why this game belongs on this list? OK, here you go:
No. 3: Dec. 4, 2013: Carolina 79, Michigan State 65. It's a mark of how good Carolina has been under Roy Williams that the Tar Heels went onto the home court of the nation's top-ranked team, won a game no one thought they could win and did it by double digits, got career performances from a handful of players in the absence of two key players, and the game can't get any higher than third on this list. This is ordinarily where game highlights would go, but let's go with a behind the scenes look at Carolina's locker room celebration and welcome home at the Smith Center at 3 a.m.:
No. 4: Jan. 17, 2004: Carolina 86, Connecticut 83. Along with the win over Illinois a month earlier, this is the first significant victory of the Williams era. The Huskies were ranked number-one in the country, but Rashad McCants hit a three-pointer with 6.2 seconds left to give the Tar Heels the win. Ben Gordon missed a potentially game-tying three at the buzzer, and the sellout crowd stormed the court. The McCants winner is at the 1:27 mark:
No. 5: Nov. 24, 2013: Carolina 93, Louisville 84. As a Carolina fan, you don't get many chances to get unexpected victories. That's what happened in this one, as the depleted Tar Heels thoroughly outplayed the defending national champions and got revelatory performances from a host of youngsters. In terms of truly unexpected wins in the regular season, it ranks right up there with the win at Kentucky during the 2005-06 season (see below) and Dean Smith's masterful upset of top-ranked Syracuse without J.R. Reid in the 1987-88 season opener.
No. 6: March 3, 2012: Carolina 88, Duke 70. Right before opening tip, the Cameron Indoor Stadium video board showed the replay of Austin Rivers' game-winning three-pointer a month earlier. Then Carolina set about erasing that memory, dominating Duke on senior day to win the ACC regular season championship. Three different Tar Heels--Kendall Marshall, Tyler Zeller and John Henson--had double-doubles as the visitors raced to a 22-5 lead, and Duke never cut the deficit below ten.
I had forgotten how good this video is:
No. 7: Dec. 3, 2005: Carolina 83, Kentucky 79. The almost completely unknown Tar Heels, who had showed some potential in a loss to Illinois four days earlier, went into Rupp Arena and whipped the No. 10 Wildcats. Reyshawn Terry scored 25 points, Carolina hit 10 three-pointers, David Noel had an epic baseline dunk, and the Tar Heels hung out with Ashley Judd after the game. All in all, a pretty good day.
When even Billy Packer has this reaction, you know it was a memorable play:
No. 8a and 8b: Jan. 6, 2008 (Carolina 90, Clemson 88 in overtime) and Feb. 10, 2008 (Carolina 103, Clemson 93 in double overtime). So, how do you like your wins over Clemson? Do you prefer road victories clinched by a buzzer-beating three-pointer from Wayne Ellington?
Or would you rather see a home streak-continuing double-overtime comeback win featuring stellar performances from Quentin Thomas, Tyler Hansbrough and Ellington (again)?
Either way, the 2008 season had you covered.
No. 9: March 8, 2009: Carolina 79, Duke 71. Most of these victories generated a feeling of euphoria. This one fostered more of a sense of relief, as the prospect of the senior class of Hansbrough, Danny Green, Bobby Frasor and Marcus Ginyard losing their final home game at the hands of the seventh-ranked Blue Devils was almost unbearable. But Ty Lawson nearly had a triple-double (13 points, eight rebounds and nine assists) while playing on an injured toe, and Hansbrough added 17 points to clinch the outright ACC title.
No. 10: Jan. 12, 2013: Carolina 77, Florida State 72. This one sneaks onto the list because--like the Louisville game--of how unexpected it was. The Seminoles had dismantled a much better Tar Heel team the year before in Tallahassee, and the 2013 Carolina team had opened ACC play 0-2. P.J. Hairston scored 23 points and Marcus Paige made two clutch free throws, while Jackson Simmons provided valuable minutes off the bench on his birthday.
No matter what, there has to be at least one victory in Tallahassee on this list. Other contenders are Ty Lawson's buzzer-beater in 2009 and Harrison Barnes' game-winner in 2011.
Adam Lucas is the editor of CAROLINA.