The Tar Heels own several notable streaks in the history of college basketball. They appeared in either the NCAA Tournament or National Invitation Tournament (NIT) every year from 1967 to 2001. This includes 27 straight appearances in the NCAA tourney from 1975 (the first year that competition allowed more than one team from a conference to get a guaranteed bid) to 2001—the longest such streak in tournament history until it was broken by Kansas in March 2017. The Tar Heels also notched 37 straight winning seasons from 1964 to 2001, the third-longest such streak in NCAA history, behind UCLA's streak of 54 consecutive winning seasons from 1948 to 2001, and Syracuse's currently active streak of 46 seasons from 1971 to date. They also finished .500 or better for 39 years in a row from 1962 (Dean Smith's second year) to 2001, the third-longest such streak in NCAA history, behind Kentucky's streak of 61 consecutive seasons from 1926 to 1988 (the Wildcats were barred from playing in 1952–53 due to NCAA violations) and UCLA's 54-season streak.
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. 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.
In Williams' first season, the Tar Heels finished 19–11 and were ranked in a final media poll for the first time in three years. They returned to the NCAA tournament and were ousted in the second round by Texas. The following year, the Tar Heels won their fourth NCAA title and Williams' first as a head coach. After winning the championship, Williams lost his top seven scorers, but the 2005–06 season saw the arrival of freshman Tyler Hansbrough and Williams was named Coach of the Year. The Tar Heels swept the ACC regular season and tournament titles in 2007 and 2008. The 2008 ACC Tournament was the first time North Carolina has ever won the ACC Tournament without defeating at least one in-state rival during the tournament. North Carolina lost in the national semifinals of the 2008 NCAA tournament to Williams' former program Kansas.
The team played in the Bynum Gymnasium, a venue known for its unusual running track suspended above the court. Play moved to the Tin Can during the 1924 season, until the team's relocation to the Woollen Gymnasium in 1938. Rudimentarily built of steel, attempts to heat the Tin Can during early season at first failed, with ice often forming inside:
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.
In 1953, North Carolina split from the Southern Conference and became a founding member of the Atlantic Coast Conference. The Tar Heels won their first NCAA Championship in 1957 under fifth year head coach Frank McGuire, who led an undefeated 32-0 squad dominated by Lennie Rosenbluth and several other transplants from the New York City area to a 54-53 triple overtime victory over Wilt Chamberlain's Kansas Jayhawks. C.D. Chesley, a Washington, D.C. television producer, piped the 1957 championship game in Kansas City to a hastily created network of five stations across North Carolina—the ancestor to the current syndicated ACC football and basketball package from Raycom Sports—which helped prove pivotal in basketball becoming a craze in the state. The title game was the only triple overtime final game in championship history, which followed a triple overtime North Carolina defeat of Michigan State 74-70 the previous night.
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.