The following year, the Tar Heels were ranked #6 in the AP preseason poll, having lost Paige and Johnson but retaining 2016 ACC Tournament MVP Joel Berry II as well as forwards Kennedy Meeks and Isaiah Hicks. After early season losses to Indiana and Kentucky, the Tar Heels won their 31st ACC regular season title. Despite never being ranked #1 in the AP Poll and losing to Duke in the semifinals of the ACC tournament, the Heels earned a #1 seed in the NCAA tournament, where they advanced to their record 20th Final Four and 11th NCAA tournament title game. They beat Gonzaga 71-65 to give Williams his 3rd national championship, surpassing mentor Dean Smith for most NCAA tournament championships at Carolina, and behind only John Wooden, Mike Krzyzewski, and Adolph Rupp for most NCAA tournament championships overall. Just as in the previous year, the Tar Heels finished with a 33-7 overall record and a 14-4 ACC record.
Despite the turnaround from the year before and the NIT appearance, at the end of the season Matt Doherty was replaced as head coach by Roy Williams. Williams had served as an assistant to Smith for 11 years before leaving to spend the first 15 years of his Hall of Fame head coaching career leading Kansas to 9 conference regular season championships and four Final Fours before Smith convinced him to return home. It was hoped that Williams would restore a measure of stability to the program. Williams was UNC's third coach in six years. The two previous to Guthridge (McGuire and Smith) had covered a 45-year period.
Smith's early teams were not nearly as successful as McGuire's had been. His first team went only 8–9 as it turned out, the last losing season UNC would suffer for 41 years. His first five teams never won more than 16 games. This grated on a fan base used to winning; in 1965 some of them even hanged him in effigy. However, Smith would go on to take the Tar Heels to a reign of championships and national dominance. When he retired in 1997, Smith's 879 wins were the most ever for any NCAA Division I men's basketball coach, and his 77.61% winning percentage ninth best. During his tenure, North Carolina won or shared 17 ACC regular season titles and won 13 ACC Tournaments. They went to the NCAA tournament 27 times–including 23 in a row from 1975 to 1997–appeared in 11 Final Fours, and won NCAA national tournament titles in 1982 and 1993. They also won the NIT in 1971. The 1982 National Championship team was led by James Worthy, Sam Perkins, and a young Michael Jordan. The 1993 National Championship team starred Donald Williams, George Lynch and Eric Montross. While at North Carolina, Smith helped promote desegregation by recruiting the University's first African American scholarship basketball player Charlie Scott.
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.
Right now, Roy Williams says he’s comfortable with an eight-man rotation, and because of that, Leaky Black will be one of two players in crossover roles. Within UNC's system, the point guard is separate while the two wings and two big men each have similar responsibilities. Black will be called on to understand both the point guard and wing spots. (Heels Maven)
After most schools decided to disband their J.V. squads, North Carolina's athletic department opted to keep the team so that non-scholarship students were given the chance to play basketball for UNC. North Carolina also uses their J.V. team as a way for varsity assistant coaches to gain experience as head coaches, such as the current coach, Hubert Davis. Roy Williams was a J.V. coach for eight years before he was hired at Kansas.
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)