The words have certainly sounded true. In the 2016-17 season, the last time North Carolina won the national championship, the team was the # 1 seed in the ACC tournament and faced Duke in the semifinal. Like this season, the Tar Heels have lost this game.
In fact, the three national championships (2005, 2009, 2017) of the Roy Williams era in Chapel Hill, North Carolina, have lost in the semifinal of the ACC tournament each of the years that have followed.
Little was certainly frustrated after missing a chance to play No. 2 seed UNC (27-6) in Friday's game. His delay with 47 seconds remaining gave North Carolina the advantage of a point over Duke (28-5) in a back-and-forth affair.
But a possession later, Duke took over advantage over the freshman striker Zion Williamson's throw-in attack for his 31st point of the night to 31 seconds from the end. Both heavyweight programs continued to exchange fruit.
Nineteen seconds later, striker Duke R.J. Barrett was on the free throw line with a chance to give Duke a three-point lead with 12 seconds to go. He missed both free throws and first year goaltender Coby White ran on the field with a chance to win the match for UNC.
The unbalanced rider of the Whites ricocheted on the ledge, and Little got his hands on it to redirect him to the hoop without success. So we can understand why the first year striker could not help thinking in the locker room that the Tar Heels were close to winning.
However, Little has comforted himself in the advice of Kenny Williams, words that have been the subject of a global vision.
"This adversity does not mean much," Williams recalls. "It's good to be a CCA champion, but we're watching for a bigger price."
Williams was not the only one to seem to put defeat in perspective. Sterling Manley, a sophomore striker, also spoke about the last time the UNC lost to Duke in the ACC tournament semifinal.
"I mean, the last time we won a national championship, it was in 2017, is not it?" Said Manley. "And have not we lost in these semifinals? So it's okay.
According to ESPN player Joe Lunardi, it is not clear if UNC will still be in the seed line, as it will be when entering the match on Sunday. It is possible that the Blue Devils exceed the Tar Heels for the last seeded No. 1.
Yet none of this seemed to matter to the players. No matter who you talked to in the locker room after Friday night's loss, the message was the same: this team has already fought back and the only thing that matters is to win the ultimate title – a national championship.
"The best thing about this team is the way we face adversity," said junior guard Seventh Woods.
"So we lost tonight, but we just have to go back, tweak things, and six other games really, we just have to pull it off."
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