PHILADELPHIA — It was always a part of the plan.
It had to be.
Houston or bust. Houston or it was a failure. Houston or it was a collegiate legacy left unfulfilled by this class of seniors.
It was a mountain of pressure, heaping higher and higher as the season went on, often keeping coach Roy Williams up at nights
Entering the senior seasons of Marcus Paige and Brice Johnson, North Carolina had nothing to show for the last four years. Not an ACC Championship, National Championship or a Final Four.
Their individual names would be in the record books, but that wasn’t enough.
No, for the Tar Heels to feel accomplished, there needed to be a physical reminder of the team’s legacy, one that would hang in the rafters of the Smith Center alongside mementos of other unforgettable teams.
The Tar Heels got one banner in Washington, D.C. But that ACC Tournament Championship wasn’t enough. They wanted more — and they needed more — to validate the careers of Brice Johnson and Marcus Paige and to heal their coach and program from the cuts and the black eyes that have defined the last four years.