In a continuation of yesterday's post, here are the next five on our list of the top ten moments of the 2013-14 basketball season.
5. NCAA Tournament win over Providence
In the media guide years from now, it will just look like a simple win by a six seed over an 11. But Providence, as C.B. McGrath found out as he began scouting them, was not a typical 11 seed. The Friars were a good basketball team that was playing well, and also happened to have one of the best--and yet unknown--guards in the field, Bryce Cotton.
Carolina has lost games very similar to the Providence game in the past, to players who got hot in a very similar fashion to Cotton. Pulling out a 79-77 win was a nice achievement for this year's team, but was also a meaningful, pressure-packed environment that will serve the returning core of that team very well in future seasons in future games.
4. Dean Smith halftime ceremony/Kentucky whiteout
I still believe what I wrote in the linked column above: I think the Dec. 14 win over the Wildcats might have been one of the best days ever, start to finish, at the Smith Center. The game had everything: a highly regarded, traditionally powerful opponent with a history against the Tar Heels, a ready clash of cultures with Carolina, and some extraneous, outside-the-game activities that made it meaningful.
The whiteout was a huge success in creating a unique atmosphere, and the halftime ceremony honoring Dean Smith's Presidential Medal of Freedom went off perfectly:
Oh, and if that wasn't enough, there was this Brice Johnson alley-oop, as linguistics experts are still trying to determine exactly what Eric Montross said:
3. Michigan State locker room celebration
At North Carolina, we simply don't get many opportunities to enjoy unexpected wins. That's not necessarily a negative--it's good to have consistent expectations of excellence. That's what makes North Carolina, North Carolina.
But no one outside the Tar Heel locker room expected excellence on the night of Dec. 4. Michigan State was the top-ranked team in the country, playing at home thirsty for revenge against a program that had dealt them so many painful losses. Carolina was coming off a loss at UAB.
But the Tar Heels thumped the Spartans, 79-65, setting off one of the most raucous locker room celebrations of the season:
2. Marcus Paige against NC State
If the Michigan State game was about everyone contributing, this game was about one player contributing, at least in the final minutes--Marcus Paige. Paige and NC State's T.J. Warren staged an epic one-on-one battle during the second half and overtime, with Paige scoring 31 points after halftime and 35 for the game and Warren finishing with a then-career high 36.
The biggest Paige basket, of course, was the game-winner, which silenced rowdy PNC Arena and gave Carolina the 16th win in the last 17 meetings in the series. By the way: in retrospect, how much tougher a shot was Paige's game-winner than you realized at the time?
1. The win over Duke
In hindsight, maybe it's OK that the original meeting was postponed.
The Triangle ice storm on Feb. 12 prevented Duke's bus from making it to Chapel Hill, and gave Tar Heel fans and players eight days to get ready for the rescheduled matchup. The result was one of the best wire-to-wire home crowds in UNC basketball history, a terrific defensive effort, a sensational 74-66 victory and a massive court-rushing,
Adam Lucas is the editor of CAROLINA.