Jeff Gravley

From Tobacco Road, Brooklyn, Phoenix and all points in between

Posted April 5

We have reached the conclusion of the seven weeks of March.

What is that, you ask?

My longtime colleague Bob Holliday coined the phrase to describe the time period from the final weekend of the ACC regular season to the last weekend of the postseason, the Final Four.

It may be a four-week period, but it feels like seven.

This has been an interesting year on Tobacco Road in basketball. What began with so much promise finished that way for one team. North Carolina brought home its sixth national championship. More on that later.

Duke claimed the ACC Tournament title with an unprecedented four wins in Brooklyn. They appeared to be on the climb only to be knocked out by the surprising Gamecocks of South Carolina on their way to their first Final Four.

NC State’s hype machine locked up like an engine with no oil. After beating Duke, the swoon began and Mark Gottfried was fired before the season ended. To add to the oddity, he remained on the bench until the season ended.

The Wolfpack planted a "now hiring" sign in the window early and that may have helped them land Kevin Keatts so quickly. His vacancy at UNC Wilmington led to the hiring of 14-year North Carolina assistant CB McGrath.

It can be a small world in the big universe of college basketball.

The North Carolina redemption tour played all over the country, including Hawaii. The group that had their hearts ripped out in 4.7 seconds a year ago made a pact with one another – to get back to the Final Four and finish what they couldn’t last season.

They were a marked team even with the loss of Marcus Paige and Brice Johnson.

I have said this over and over. It’s one thing to talk about doing something – it’s another thing to actually do it.

The Tar Heels refueled after the draining win over Kentucky that punched their ticket to Arizona. Kennedy Meeks stood tall against Oregon to set up an encore on the redemption tour.

Beauty is in the eye of the beholder, and while North Carolina’s win over Gonzaga was ugly at best, they don’t ask HOW you won it but DID you win it.

Tears swelled in the eyes of some of the Tar Heel players even before the clock had evaporated on championship night. The reality of the accomplishment was overwhelming.

For the last five years, Carolina has dealt with the “junk” as Roy Williams calls it. The Hall of Fame coach has even been criticized by his own fan base about not calling timeouts and not landing the elite recruits.

But Williams found a group that was willing to commit to Carolina no matter how much “junk” was in the yard.

It led to a pair of Final Fours and the school’s sixth NCAA championship.

The feat has fueled the fire of foes who wish the NCAA would drop the hammer on the school before they can raise another banner.

At the team celebration the day after the championship win, Roy Williams told the Tar Heel faithful gathered at the Smith Center that he loved seeing the faces of the players and cutting down the nets.

He then added a parting shot to the critics saying, “…there are so many people around here that are so ticked off.”

The only thing Williams didn’t do was drop the mic and immediately raise the 2017 banner to the ceiling or the roof or whatever it is.


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