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Wednesday, March 24, 2010
North Carolina could still make history

By Eamonn Brennan

Sure, North Carolina had a rough year. Taking a team of McDonald's All-Americans to the NIT is no one's idea of fun. But the season's not completely lost. UNC did accomplish one major feat this season -- becoming the second program in NCAA history to reach the 2,000-win plateau. That's something, right?

Here's another thing: North Carolina has advanced to the Final Four of the NIT after beating UAB Tuesday night, and if UNC wins two more games, they'll do something no college basketball program has ever done before: Win the NCAA and the NIT in consecutive years.

The closest any program's ever been was Kentucky in 1947-48, when the Wildcats finished second in the NIT and first in the NCAA tournament a year later. To the modern college hoops fan, this would seem like a dubious accomplishment -- who wants to win the NIT a year after the NCAA tournament? -- and for our purposes, and North Carolina's, it is. This season has been a rousing failure. Remember, though, that the NIT used to be college basketball's main championship, and the NCAA tournament its surrogate. Shockingly, people used to care about both tournaments. In that way, it's surprising that no team has ever done this before -- and that we had to wait until 2010, and a mystifyingly bad team from one of the nation's elite hoops powers, to get close again.