From the ACC's inception in 1953 to 2001, the Tar Heels did not finish worse than a tie for fourth place in ACC play. By comparison, all of the ACC's other charter members finished last at least once in that time. From 1965 to 2001, they did not finish worse than a tie for third, and for the first 21 of those years they did not finish worse than a tie for second.
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. 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.
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)