Smith unexpectedly retired before the start of practice for the 1997–98 season. He was succeeded by Bill Guthridge, who had been an assistant coach at the school for 30 years, the last 25 as Smith's top assistant. During Guthridge's three seasons as head coach he posted an 80–28 record, making him tied for the then-NCAA record for most wins by a coach after three seasons.[36] The Tar Heels reached the NCAA Final Four twice, in the 1998 tournament and again in the 2000 tournament. North Carolina reached the Final Four in 2000 as an 8-seed, their lowest seeding in a Final Four appearance.[37]
Guthridge retired in 2000 and North Carolina turned to Matt Doherty, the head coach at Notre Dame and a player on the 1982 championship team, to lead the Tar Heels.[38] Doherty had little success while at North Carolina. In his first season, the Heels were ranked #1 in the polls in the middle of the Atlantic Coast Conference schedule and finished with a 26–7 record. The bottom fell out the following year, as the Tar Heels finished the season with a record of 8–20, the worst season in school history. They missed postseason play entirely for the first time since the 1965–66 season (including a record 27 straight NCAA Tournament appearances) and finished with a losing record for the first time since 1962 (Dean Smith's first year as coach). They also finished 4–12 in the ACC—only the program's second losing ACC record ever. The 12 losses were six more than the Tar Heels had ever suffered in a single season of ACC play, and placed them in a tie for 7th place—the program's first finish below fourth place ever. The season also saw the end of UNC's run of 31 straight 20-win seasons and 35 straight seasons of finishing third or higher in the ACC.
The ACC’s current 15 member schools have captured eight of the last 19 NCAA Championships and 17 overall, including Virginia’s first title in 2019. Current ACC member schools have combined for 64 Final Four appearances and a national-best 639 NCAA Tournament wins. League teams have combined to win an NCAA-record 74 NCAA Tournament games over the past five seasons, highlighted by a 68-29 mark versus teams from outside the conference.
Defensive coordinator Steve Spagnuolo singles out safety Juan Thornhill and lineman Khalen Saunders, the Chiefs' two top defensive draft picks, as players he was particularly eager to see play in Saturday night's preseason opener against the Bengals at Arrowhead Stadium. "I'm really looking more for how cohesive a unit we can be," Spagnuolo said. "To me, communication and working together as a unit . . . That's as important as anything. If we don't get that squared away in the first game, it's going to be a long season."
^ The Helms Foundation named its own national college basketball champion for each year from 1936 through 1982. The foundation also retroactively awarded championships from 1901 through 1935. While the 1924 team was undefeated, they did not play a single opponent from north of the Mason–Dixon line; indeed, intersectional play would not start on a regular basis for another decade. However, the 1924 Tar Heels did beat the Kentucky Wildcats that season in a battle of what most considered the two best teams in the nation.
North Carolina is still alive in the recruitment for five-star shooting guard Bryce Thompson, one of the top uncommitted recruits in the 2020 class. The Tulsa, Oklahoma native cut his list down to seven teams in August. On Sunday, Thompson cut his list one more time as he trimmed it down to four finalists: UNC, Kansas, Oklahoma State, and Oklahoma. (Keeping It Heel)
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