This March will be different.
This March I will find out what people do with their time in the springtime. I very purposefully never schedule anything for March or the first weekend of April because you never know. And now that we do know it’s a little disconcerting. There is no need to research Albany or Tampa or Sacramento, and no opposing 16 seed opposite the Tar Heels who I will convince myself is the Harlem Globetrotters in disguise.
This March I will think more than a healthy amount about January. Specifically, the four weeks between Jan. 4 and Feb. 1, when Carolina lost six games, every single one of them winnable.
This March I will remind myself that next March I should be more appreciative. The NCAA Tournament is an important event. As soon as Justin Pierce arrived on campus, he told everyone that he came to Carolina because he’d never experienced the NCAA Tournament at William & Mary. He wanted to win a national championship, of course, but what he really wanted to experience was playing in the NCAA Tournament. It is an event that matters. It is not a birthright.
This March I will remember that being a Hall of Famer doesn’t mean being unwilling to try a new approach. No one was more confounded by this season than Roy Williams. The 2019-20 campaign may hold the record in the history of his coaching career for most new approaches tried. He added new offensive sets. He tweaked his team’s travel. He flew to Lubbock on an off day just to see what he could learn from Texas Tech’s approach, and returned with a host of new ideas, from drills to practice environment. You know what most people do on an off day? They take the day off. Williams went a time zone away to try and fix the season.
This March I will be virtually unstoppable in all bracket prediction contests. I have no allegiances to impact my picks so I will purely use my incredible basketball knowledge to make all selections. This March I will not start with the champion (North Carolina, obviously) and work backwards.
This March will be, based on the surreal atmosphere at the Greensboro Coliseum on March 10—with fans as interested in the news updates from their phone as they were the action on the court and spectators wore surgical gloves and wiped down their seats before sitting in them and anyone sneezing drew concerned glances—different than any we’ve ever experienced. And so this March will probably remind us that we are the fortunate ones who can knowingly pity those who don’t understand how important college basketball can be, but can also recognize that there are still things that are even more important.
This March I will worry about the 2030 season. We all saw what happened in 2010. Now we have 2020. And so I will review film of the very best 3rd and 4th graders in the country and identify the ones who will prevent this from happening in 2030. I will forward their YouTube mixtapes to the basketball office, at least until they put a block on my email address.
This March I will vigorously root for all of our Atlantic Coast Conference brethren to advance as far as possible in the NCAA Tournament. Their success is Carolina’s success and I will cheer accordingly.
Just kidding. Had to make sure you were still paying attention. Go Zags or Flyers or Aztecs or Spartans or, you know, whoever gets the job done, and I think we both know what job I’m talking about.
This March I will take two hours to re-watch the 2017 national championship game. With the departures of Shea Rush and Brandon Robinson, the last playing links to that team are now gone. I will remember how amazed Robinson was to sit in that locker room in Phoenix, and the wonder he showed his freshman season when he met Michael Jordan at the Smith Center and cut down a net and talked about how he’d grown up wanting to be part of Carolina basketball. Every time they are introduced in Chapel Hill for the rest of their lives, they will be, “national champion Shea Rush” and “national champion Brandon Robinson,” and that puts them in very select company.
This March I will remember that this is what it’s like for most of the rest of the basketball world. Carolina basketball is not normal. The Tar Heels just completed their fourth losing season in the ACC era. That’s roughly one losing campaign every 17 years. So from the time a child is born until they go to college, they’ll experience one losing season rooting for Carolina. That’s not a bad tradeoff. You’ll get the wins and the family and the “Go Heels!” from strangers in far-away airports and the comebacks and the tears on senior day and the pointing to the passer and—for one season—you’ll lose.
This March there is nothing to plan my life around. I don’t need to dread CBS deciding tipoff will be after 10 p.m. on a Thursday. There will not be any commercials “from our corporate champions” that I have memorized after the first weekend. I am not even sure Jim Nantz will warmly welcome me with, “Hello, friends.”
This March I don’t get to pity my friends who don’t live college basketball the way the rest of us do, because for once, I am them. Maybe I will watch the games, or maybe I will read a book. There is no handbook for this. “Zero shining moments” doesn’t have quite the same ring.
This March it is only March 12, and there is no more Carolina Basketball to watch. And no matter how much this season exasperated me and kept me awake at night and made me question why this game and these people hold such a dominant role in my life, this March I miss it already.
Adam Lucas writes for goheels.com.