In 2017-18, the Tar Heels were ranked at #9 in the Coaches poll. Forwards Isaiah Hicks, Kennedy Meeks, Tony Bradley, and Justin Jackson had left, while the team recruited Cameron Johnson. This season, the team did not earn the ACC regular season or postseason title. However, the Heels earned a #2 seed in the West of the NCAA tournament. The Tar Heels ended the season with a 26-11 record after being eliminated by Texas A&M in the round of 32 in the NCAA Tournament.
The 2010–2011 Tar Heels, with the addition of Harrison Barnes, Kendall Marshall, and Reggie Bullock, eighth in the preseason polls, struggled out the gates, starting with a 2-2 record, the worst start since the 2001–02 season. After losses to Illinois and Texas, the Tar Heels fell out of the rankings. The losses of senior Will Graves, to dismissal, and Larry Drew II, to transfer and also the unexpected off-season transfers of David and Travis Wear did not help matters. However, the Tar Heels improved greatly during the conference season, finishing first in the ACC regular season with a 14-2 record. Williams was named Conference Coach of the Year for his efforts of getting his team to work through the adversity to finish strong in the regular season. Also during the season, the term Tar Heel Blue Steel was coined, referencing the Tar Heel men's basketball walk-ons. The term was started by one of the players, Stewart Cooper, in hopes that it would be a replacement for "walk-ons" and other less catchy names and soon enough Roy Williams caught on, as well as the rest of the Tar Heel Nation. North Carolina lost to Duke in the ACC Tournament Finals and made a significant run in the NCAA Tournament until they were eliminated in the Elite Eight by Kentucky, finishing with a 29-8 record.
The 1922 Tar Heels won the SoCon, and the 1924 Tar Heels squad went 26–0, and was retroactively awarded a 'national championship' by the Helms Athletic Foundation in 1943 and later by the Premo-Porretta Power Poll. The Tar Heels also won the 1925 and 1926 SoCon titles, three in a row and four in five seasons. Their fast style of play and stingy defense earned these teams the nickname "White Phantoms", used as an alternative nickname for the Tar Heels into the 1940s.