You Would Cry Too If It Happened to You: Touted Tar Heels Trail of Tears
Only a "double idiot" wouldn't know the prognosis of a promising postseason always seems to exist for North Carolina, which has made more Final Four appearances than any school (20). But the Tar Heels' on-court regal resume could be even more impressive.
Over the years, Carolina has had more than its fair share of national contenders see their playoff hopes dashed by injuries to vital players. No school's NCAA championship aspirations have been short-circuited more by an assortment of major injuries than UNC's M.A.S.H. unit. Consider this lengthy list of Tar Heel tourney trauma (rankings are by AP unless otherwise noted):
1958 - Joe Quigg, the starting center for Carolina's unbeaten NCAA champion in 1957, was sidelined his entire senior season following a leg injury in the team's first big scrimmage. The 13th-ranked Tar Heels blew a seven-point halftime lead against Maryland in the ACC Tournament final.
1969 - Starting guard Dick Grubar, averaging 13 points per game, injured a knee in the ACC Tournament and was lost for the NCAA playoffs. A standout defensive player, the senior would have drawn the assignment of facing explosive Purdue guard Rick Mount, a 36-point scorer in a national semifinal victory over fourth-ranked Carolina.
1976 - Sophomore playmaker Phil Ford, a second-team consensus All-American, injured a knee in a pickup game after the ACC Tournament and was ineffective (two points, three assists, five turnovers) in the eighth-ranked Tar Heels' 79-64 NCAA Tournament first-round defeat against Alabama.
1977 - Senior center Tom LaGarde was averaging 15.1 points and 7.4 rebounds per game when he injured a knee at midseason and was lost for the remainder of the year. Ford, a first-team consensus All-America and fifth-ranked Carolina's leading scorer, hyperextended his shooting elbow (right) in the East Regional semifinals and scored a total of just 20 points in the team's last three playoff games, including six points on 3-of-10 field-goal shooting in a national final defeat against Marquette.
1980 - Standout freshman forward James Worthy was averaging 12.5 points and 7.4 rebounds per game when he sustained a broken ankle at midseason and was lost for the remainder of the year. The 15th-ranked Tar Heels lost their NCAA playoff opener in double overtime against Texas A&M.
1984 - Mercurial freshman guard Kenny Smith, still hampered after missing eight games because of a broken wrist, wasn't 100% when the top-ranked Heels were kayoed by Indiana, 72-68. Of course, the biggest problem for Carolina was national player of the year Michael Jordan being limited to 13 points, one rebound and one assist.
1985 - Junior guard Steve Hale was unable to play the remainder of the tournament after suffering a broken collarbone when thrown to the floor while driving to the basket in Carolina's NCAA playoff opener against Middle Tennessee State. The seventh-ranked Tar Heels were eliminated in the Southeast Regional final by champion-to-be Villanova (56-44).
2012 - Playmaker deluxe Kendall Marshall sustained a fractured right wrist in second-round victory against Creighton. #1 seed UNC, ranked fourth nationally, went on to lose against Kansas in Midwest Regional final.