One year ago already? I feel like it was just yesterday. The best day of my college career so far was the day that UNC won the 2017 NCAA Men’s Basketball Championship. Since I’m mourning the loss of the “Reigning National Champions” title today (as I’m sure all UNC fans are) and I thought this would be the perfect way to start out my blog. Demonstrating my love for UNC basketball is the perfect way to introduce myself. My name is Cara Siliakus, and I am a Tar Heel.
The entire NCAA tournament last year was incredibly exciting. UNC was back for #redemption after a painful 2016 final result (OK, we won’t talk about it.) It was nerve-wracking at times, but round after round, we kept going. There was Luke Maye’s legendary shot in the final seconds of the Kentucky Elite 8 game. Then came the Final Four game, where we beat Oregon by 1 point to get the chance to prove that we were deserving of a national title, and on April 3, 2017, the energy on UNC’s campus was electric.
I decided to watch the game at the home of UNC basketball, the Dean Dome. My friends and I made the trek down to the arena and settled in to watch the game on a huge screen they had set up for us. I remember feeling so many emotions right before the game started: happiness, pride, fear, anxiety, excitement, you name it. I was incredibly nervous (just like everyone else on the planet who was rooting for the Tar Heels) but deep down I also felt confident that the boys could get it done. After witnessing their successful season a few times in person (thank you UNC student ticket lottery) I had a lot of faith that they were going to send Gonzaga packing.
The game came and went, and I honestly can’t remember much of it due to all of the adrenaline, but I know my friends and I were riding an emotional rollercoaster as the Tar Heels gained the lead, then lost it, then gained it again. I do remember the last two or three minutes of the game, though. This was when we turned to each other and said, “I think we’ve done it. I think we’ve just won this game.” There was an eerie sense of calm among all of us, and sure enough, time ran out, and the Heels were on top.
Next came the madness. The Dean Dome was euphoric with cheers and screaming. Happy tears ran down my face, and I didn’t exactly know what to do next. Then I remembered the age-old tradition: We had to run. All the way to Franklin Street. If you’re familiar with UNC’s campus you know that the Dean Dome and Franklin Street are on opposite sides of campus. And if you know me, you know I’m not a runner. This was about to get ~interesting~.
The best part about this run was the fact that it began with the mountainous Skipper Bowles hill. I thought I would fast-walk up the hill and then begin running, but the thunderous herd of fans around me had a different idea. So I ran up the hill (which I bet wasn’t a pretty sight) When I made it to the top, I seriously felt like I was dying (maybe I’m a little dramatic.) I then convinced my friends to half-run, half-walk the rest of the way. There’s no way the celebration would be over by the time we got there.
The party was just getting started by the time we got to Franklin Street. People were flooding the main intersection and everywhere in between, yelling and cheering for the Heels. Someone shot off fireworks overhead. It was a perfect scene – thousands of people all united by their love for the Tar Heels. Fires were started, people were hugging each other and lifting each other up on their shoulders. We reunited with some of our friends we had lost during the run there and took countless pictures to document the night, and celebrated for several hours after that.
I distinctly remember never wanting it to end, because it was the happiest feeling to be surrounded by fellow UNC students and experience this win together. I will always feel lucky to be able to have had that experience and that I shared it with some of my best friends!
The next day I got my hands on a copy of the Daily Tar Heel, which had the huge headline “REDEMPTION” on the front page along with a full spread of pictures from the championship. The mood on campus was so cheerful, the weather was beautiful and no one noticed how tired they were from staying up late soaking up the win.
Everyone immediately bought the championship T-Shirt, which I bought 3 of (and now my parents and I match.) I wore it today to commemorate the occasion.
Then came the team’s return from Phoenix, where everyone returned to the Dean Dome to welcome the National Champions back from their 7th title win (In case you were wondering,
Dook Duke only has 5.) That was so awesome to be a part of, because nothing beats seeing a smile on Roy Williams’ face and showering the team with appreciation in person.
And now it’s a year later. The tournament this year may not have had the same ending, but you can’t be sad for too long if you picture the 2017 banner hanging with the others in the rafters of the Dean Dome. I wish I could relive that night all over again, but I know another National Championship can’t be too far down the road for the Heels.
So, Happy One Year Anniversary of that time that the Tar Heels won the National Championship (for the 7th time!!), A.K.A. one of the best nights of my life and an incredible memory of my time as a UNC student.
I’ll leave you with this awesome quote that I found shortly after the championship that sums it all up:
“We get to do Carolina basketball tonight and tomorrow and next fall and forever, and we’ll get to tell stories about this year’s Tar Heels, who may have taken years off the end of our collective lives, but it was so, so worth it. We’ll get to remember where we were and who we were with and who we hugged. Lucky us.”
The ceiling IS in fact the roof!