Over the course of the past week, Isaac Schade and I have tasked ourselves with researching and debating on the greatest graduating classes of the Roy Williams era at the University of North Carolina.

Williams is well known for beating the one-and-done system of modern college basketball, only having two freshmen (possibly three, depending on Tony Bradley’s upcoming decision) enter the NBA Draft in his 14 years of coaching the Tar Heels. He often has three or more seniors graduate every season, although there have been a couple down years, such as the 2012-2013 season when Dexter Strickland was the only scholarship player to graduate.

The Process

We attacked this question of the greatest graduating class by going in-depth into the statistics of each class. Isaac and I compiled the individual career statistics of each senior in each class and their accolades. We then dove into the team statistics of the four seasons that each class was there, such as overall team record, their ACC record, their record against Duke, and how they fared in the NCAA Tournament.

Total Wins By Class

Tyler Hansbrough: National Player of the Year Awards

 The Rankings

2004-2005

The Seniors

  • Jawad Williams – 12.7 points / 4.8 rebounds / 1.5 assists
  • Melvin Scott – 6.8 points / 1.8 rebounds / 1.6 assists
  • Jackie Manuel – 6.2 points / 3.4 rebounds / 1.8 assists

Pros:

  • 2005 NCAA Championship
  • ACC Regular Season Championship (2005)
  • 2nd highest average career points per game among the senior class (8.6)
  • Best winning percentage in the NCAA Tourney (also least appearances)

Cons:

  • Worst overall record (79-51)
  • Worst ACC record (32-32)
  • Worst Duke Record (2-8)
  • No ACC Tournament Championship
  • No All-Americans

Class Grade:

Trent – 78

Isaac – 59

2015-2016

The Senior Class:

  • Marcus Paige – 13.1 points / 4.3 assists
    • 1st Team All-ACC
    • 2nd Team All-America
  • Brice Johnson – 11.6 points / 7.0 rebounds
    • 1st Team All-ACC
    • 1st Team All-America
  • Joel James – 2.2 points / 2.2 rebounds

Pros:

  • 2 All-Americans (Paige 2nd team / Johnson 1st team)
  • Highest average career points per game among the senior class (9.0)
  • 2nd most ACC wins of any class (50)
  • ACC Regular Season Championship (2016)
  • ACC Tourney Championship (2016)

Cons:

  • No NCAA Championship (Lost in 2016 Championship game)
  • 2nd worst record against Duke (2-6)
  • Most NCAA Tournament losses (4)

Class Grade:

Trent – 82

Isaac – 75

2016-2017

The Senior Class:

  • Kennedy Meeks – 10.3 points / 7.3 rebounds
  • Isaiah Hicks – 7.4 points / 3.6 rebounds
  • Nate Britt – 5.1 points / 2.0 assists
  • Stilman White – 0.8 points / 0.5 assists

Pros:

  • NCAA Championship (2017)
  • ACC Regular Season Championship (2016 & 2017)
  • ACC Tourney Championship (2016)
  • Most ACC wins of any class (52)
  • Tied for most NCAA Tournament wins (14)

Cons:

  • Losing record against Duke (3-5)
  • No All-Americans

Class Grade:

Trent – 88

Isaac – 80

2008-2009

The Senior Class:

  • Tyler Hansbrough – 20.2 points / 8.6 rebounds
    • 9 National Player of the Year Awards
    • 4-time 1st Team All-American
    • 4-time 1st Team All-ACC
    • ACC All-Time leading scorer
    • NCAA Record for made Free-Throws
  • Danny Green – 7.4 points / 3.6 rebounds
    • Played in more wins than any other Tar Heel (121)
  • Bobby Fraser – 3.7 points / 1.7 assists
  • Mike Copeland – 1.1 points /0.8 rebounds
  • Marcus Ginyard* – 6.1 points / 3.8 rebounds

Pros:

  • NCAA Championship (2009)
  • ACC Regular Season Championship (2007, 2008, & 2009)
  • ACC Tourney Championship (2007 & 2008)
  • Best ACC record of any class (50-14)
  • Best record against Duke (6-2)
  • Tied for most NCAA Tournament wins (14)
  • All-American (Tyler Hansbrough 4-time 1st team)
  • National Player of the Year (Tyler Hansbrough 2008)

Cons:

  • Basically none, other than maybe the 2008 Final Four game

Class Grade:

Trent – 96

Isaac – 94

* – Ginyard took the option to injury redshirt in 2008-2009, so he did actually graduate in 2010. However, he came in with this group and played through the 4 years, so he counts in our book.

Thoughts on our Favorites

Trent –

Every one of these classes mean something special to me. The ’05 class transformed me into a UNC basketball fan. The ’09 class further transformed me into a UNC basketball aficionado. The ’17 class gave me the experience of a championship night on Franklin as a student. But the class of 2015-2016 is the one that will forever hold the highest place in my heart.

I had seen the beauty of winning and the heartbreak of loss before, but never of the magnitude that this class brought me. From seeing Marcus Paige play in his first game at the Dean Dome, to nights of Brice Johnson’s dominance, and Joel James wagging his tongue after a monster slam right in front of me. These guys embodied the brilliance that is Carolina basketball.

But sadly, their last memory for us will always be the loss to Nova in the national championship. They are my special class because I shared a feeling of pure sadness with them that is unmatched to any sports memory of my life. But it was not disappointment, because I knew that these guys had put their all out on the court that night. The highs and lows of emotions that I attach to these three athletes will forever be unmatched.

Not to mention the fact that, two All-American and All-ACC players along with a historically dominant 2016 season helps just a little bit too.

 

Isaac –

The 08-09 class separates themselves because of the sheer dominance of this team. Of the four classes, this is the only one to have a winning record against Duke. Moreover, they NEVER LOST AT CAMERON INDOOR STADIUM. Perhaps a name change to Hansbrough Memorial Coliseum is in order? The most impressive stat on this list might just be the three ACC Regular Season Championships. Do you know how hard is to win the ACC?

But hang on, we have not even mentioned something: a young man from Poplar Bluff, Missouri by the name of Tyler Hansbrough. Of all four classes, he is the most recognizable name. Why? Oh, maybe it’s his nine National Player of the Year awards. Or perhaps it’s his four 1st Team All-America or four 1st Team All-ACC selections. It could be that he is the ACC All-Time leading scorer or that he holds the NCAA career record for most free throws made. Whatever it is, looking at his entire body of work, Tyler Hansbrough will go down as the best men’s college basketball player in North Carolina Tar Heels history. If the 08-09 class was not in a, um, ahem, class by themselves based on stats alone, Mr. Hansbrough and his litany of achievements would certainly put the “Oh-Niners” over the top. Case closed.

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Author Details
ACC Department Head / Content Contributor for Armchair UNC / The Armchair All-Americans LLC
I am nothing but a southern boy, from the prototype of small town USA; raised on sweet tea, good manners, and basketball. I modeled my game as a averagely athletic, Tyler Hansbrough with a jumpshot and it earned me a few emails from D-3 schools, so I write now. I attend the University of North Carolina and treat our teams like royalty. Go Heels, Go America, baby!
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ACC Department Head / Content Contributor for Armchair UNC / The Armchair All-Americans LLC
I am nothing but a southern boy, from the prototype of small town USA; raised on sweet tea, good manners, and basketball. I modeled my game as a averagely athletic, Tyler Hansbrough with a jumpshot and it earned me a few emails from D-3 schools, so I write now. I attend the University of North Carolina and treat our teams like royalty. Go Heels, Go America, baby!

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