When March Madness ensues, everyone wants to think that they are a fortune teller. People fill out their tournament brackets, dreaming of winning a contest or the pool at their job. No one knows what upsets are going to occur this weekend. All that we can do is assume. In the past, the North Carolina Tar Heels have had their backs against the wall when it was time for the NCAA Tournament to begin. When this happened, people started writing off North Carolina.
This is not the first time that North Carolina has been a No. 8 seed in the NCAA Tournament. This season actually marks the third time that this has occurred. The other two times took place during the 1989-1990 season and the 1999-2000 season. In both instances, North Carolina won their first round game (referred to as the “Round of 64”) and their second round game (referred to as the “Round of 32”).
In 1990, North Carolina barely earned a bid to the NCAA Tournament, with a 19-12 overall record. North Carolina defeated Southwest Missouri State in the first round, 83-70. This victory set up a match-up between the No. 8 seed, North Carolina, and the No. 1 seed, the Oklahoma Sooners. Oklahoma was led by Herman “Skeeter” Henry. North Carolina was led by Rick Fox (current actor who has appeared on BET‘s TV sitcom, “The Game,” and the Tyler Perry movie, “Meet The Browns“). Fox hit the game-winning bank shot that propelled North Carolina to a 79-77 victory over Oklahoma. Fox scored the last five points for North Carolina. In addition, he received an assist from current North Carolina assistant coach, Hubert Davis (shown in the picture above). Other notable North Carolina players on the roster were King Rice (head coach at Monmouth University) and Pete Chilcutt (a member of the 1995 NBA Champion Houston Rockets).
In 2000, North Carolina had an 18-13 overall record. In the first round, North Carolina beat the Missouri Tigers, 84-70. This win gave rise to a showdown between North Carolina and the Stanford Cardinal. Stanford was led by Casey Jacobsen, Mark “Mad Dog” Madsen and the Collins’ twins (Jason and Jarron Collins). Notable players for North Carolina were Joseph Forte, Ed Cota, Jason Capel (current head coach of Appalachian State University), Brendan Haywood (current center for the NBA’s Charlotte Bobcats) and Julius Peppers (current defensive end for the NFL‘s Chicago Bears). North Carolina won the game, 60-53. Although Stanford out-rebounded North Carolina, 38 to 32, North Carolina won the game due to better shooting percentages and stifling defense. Forte anchored his team with 17 points. Cota almost had a triple-double (seven points, seven rebounds and 10 assists). Haywood had 10 points, eight rebounds and four blocks. North Carolina held All-American Jacobsen to five points.
In both cases, North Carolina beat the odds and defeated the overall No. 1-ranked team in the nation. North Carolina was also in the South region for both events. In 2000, North Carolina was in the Final Four. Do not underestimate what North Carolina can accomplish when they are the underdog. In the past, North Carolina has played their best basketball when they were in this predicament. Possibly, this upcoming weekend could be another example of how the underdog will be on top.