The 2021-22 season came to a close last night, and Kansas was crowned the national champion, after erasing a 16 point deficit, to top UNC 72-69 in New Orleans. That 16 point comeback, is the largest ever in the national title game and gave the Jayhawks their 4th NCAA title. UNC led 40-25 at the break, after closing the first half, on an extended 25-7 run, to take control of the game. Kansas responded by scoring the first six points in the second half, which set the tone for their comeback, as they would outscore Carolina, 47-29 over the final 20 minutes. The loss to Kansas drops Carolina to 2-5 against the blue blood in the NCAA Tournament and evens their mark in title games at 6-6.
UNC shot just 32% from the field in the game, and even worse 22% from behind the three-point line. Meanwhile, Kansas shot 44% from the floor, and 35% from behind the arc. Armando Bacot totaled another double-double which tied with him David Robinson for the most in NCAA history with 31 in a season. He also became the first player ever to record a double-double in six NCAA Tournament contests. R.J. Davis and Caleb Love were hounded into just 10-41 shooting, as they weren’t able to make the shots they had made all tournament run long.
After a Kansas turnover, Love had a chance to send the game to overtime, but the shot fell short, and Carolina’s magical run to the final was over. Despite Bacot and Love spraining ankles, Brady Manek taking multiple shots to the head, and Puff Johnson collapsing on the court, this team fought to the very end and gave the game everything they had, and that’s all something we can be proud of.
Second Half Struggles: You knew Kansas was going to punch back after a slow first half, and they did so by scoring the first 6 points. Carolina’s double-digit lead was cut in half by the under 16 media timeout and was all but evaporated by the under 12 break. Carolina struggled to protect the basketball and wasn’t able to make any perimeter shots to slow down the Kansas comeback.
Depth: Carolina’s “Iron 5” carried them to the national title game, but it couldn’t bring them home the trophy. While Puff Johnson stepped up scoring 11 points off the bench, not having anyone else to come off the bench, and contribute was really hurtful, with UNC in foul trouble most of the second half. Kansas was able to rotate their starters in and out of the game, and having a guy like Remi Martin come off the bench, proved to be the difference-maker in the closing minutes of the game.
Perimeter Shooting: Carolina has relied on its perimeter shooting during the tournament, and last night it fell short of the wayside, as Carolina was just 5-21 from behind the arc. Love and Davis combined to go just 1-13, while Manek was 3-6.
As Carolina transitions into the off-season, there are many questions that need to be answered? Will Armando and Love go pro? Will Leaky use his COVID year to return for a super senior season? The answers to those questions will determine the outlook for the 2022-23 season, but one thing is for certain: the future of Carolina Basketball is in good hands under the guidance of Hubert Davis.
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