By: Drew Franklin
6:30 PMNorth Carolina is struggling this year, just one season after winning the NCAA National Championship in 2009. While no one expected the 2010 Heels to repeat as champs, no one expected them to be at the bottom of the ACC, either.
The Heels have played their way out of the NCAA tournament, away from the spotlight, and into the Recycle Bin on Joe Lunardi’s Desktop. They’re currently sitting on the NIT bubble and could very well end up in the College Basketball Invitational alongside perennial powerhouses Devry. ITT Tech, and Central Tennessee’s School of Taxidermy.
Some are calling the 2010 Heels the worst defending champ in history.
It’s sad, but is it true?
Let’s take a look at other failures to follow greatness:
2008 Florida Gators (24-12) – The defending back-to-back national champions lost 8 of their last 11 games to finish the 2008 season. Florida head coach Billy Donovan kicked his team out of their own gym and banned them from wearing Florida gear.
1977 Indiana Hoosiers (14-13) – It’s not easy following up a 32-0 season in college basketball and the 1977 Indiana Hoosiers showed that by losing their first three games. Losing five of their last seven didn’t help matters, either.
1980 Michigan State (12-15) – The 1980 Spartans weren’t looking to repeat after losing Magic Johnson to the NBA but surely they could’ve done better than a 15-loss season. Michigan State returned all but two players from their championship in 1979.
1979 Kentucky Wildcats (19-12) – Joe B. Hall’s Wildcats lost Goose Givens, Rick Robey, and James Lee after the 1978 Championship. The 1979 season, known as “The Season Without Celebration” ended in a first-round NIT loss.
2003 Tampa Bay Buccaneers (7-9) - Coming in high off the 2002 Super Bowl, John Gruden’s Bucs bombed in the 2003 season and haven’t competed for the Lombardi Trophy since.
1999 Denver Broncos (6-10) – John Elway’s retirement after winning the 1998 Super Bowl marked the end of an era in the Mile High City. Unfortunately for Denver, it also marked the beginning of the Brian Griese era and a 6-10 season as defending champs.
Asia's “Alpha”: Asia’s self-titled debut sold 7 million copies and was one of the biggest releases in 1982. In 1983, Asia released “Alpha” only to see the album tank on the charts.
Hootie and the Blowfish's “Fairweather Johnson” - Hootie and the Blowfish’s highly anticipated sophomore album sold 13 million copies less than “Cracked Rear View.”
Caddyshack 2 - It’s tough to fill the shoes of the great ones before you and this year’s Tarheels are figuring that out just as Jackie Mason and Dan Akroyd did in the worst movie sequel of all-time.
Speed 2: Cruise Control - Even Keanu Reeves didn’t want to come back for this one.
Saved by the Bell: The New Class - With most of the cast gone, Mr. Belding and Screech were the only two characters to return for the follow up series to Saved By The Bell. In comparison to UNC, Mr. Belding is Thompson and Ginyard is Screech. Zach and Slater left for the NBA.
Cooper Manning - In a long line of pigskin greatness, from Archie to Peyton and Eli, Cooper is the football failure of the Manning family of Pro Bowl quarterbacks.
So, what do you think?
Is North Carolina the equivalent of the ’77 Hoosiers, the ’99 Broncos, and Asia’s sophomore album? Or are they even more of an embarrassment to their predecessor?