NEW ORLEANS — Every team starts the season with a goal of getting to the Final Four and winning a national championship. For some teams, that goal is much more realistic than others and at North Carolina that goal always seems to be in reach.
The Tar Heels are playing in their 21st Final Four this week, the most of any team in NCAA history. But they are here for just the second time as a No. 8 seed and the path to get to this point has been full of potholes. Davis’ commitment to getting his players to block out the noise and do what needed to be done to maximize their potential as a team ultimately led them to New Orleans.
Davis, who took the job four days after Roy Williams retired exactly one year ago Friday, knew from Day One that his players had this kind of a postseason run in them.
“The first day of practice I had put a picture of the Superdome in their locker,” he said Thursday as North Carolina prepared to practice before facing rival Duke on Saturday in the Final Four. “I wanted them to see where we’re going and what we’re fighting for and why we’re practicing so hard, why we’re preparing, and what is going to be required of us to have a chance to be there.”
North Carolina checked in at No. 19 in the preseason AP poll — which is not exactly representative of an expectation of making it to the Final Four, and the team was not ready to play at even that level early on. It was a season of transition after the retirement of Williams and Davis taking over and things did not go smoothly at first.
“This has been a lot of new-ness,” Davis said. “It’s a new head coach, new coaching staff, three transfers, two freshmen, tweaks, pivots, alters in terms of how we play on both ends of the floor. It takes time.”
Indeed it did. The Tar Heels played a good non-conference schedule early on, but were mostly not up to the challenges of that schedule. UNC lost to Tennessee and Purdue in…