It’s amazing how much can change in just one year, and the North Carolina Tar Heels were reminded of that as they fell to the Dayton Flyers, 79-68, in the National Invitation Tournament championship played April 1 at Madison Square Garden in New York.
Only a year ago, North Carolina proved President Obama’s prediction right by winning the NCAA Tournament title. But with a less-talented team this year, North Carolina (20-17) didn’t qualify for the “big dance.”
North Carolina coach Roy Williams, who told the media several times that this has been one of the toughest seasons of his career, still managed to get his team into the NIT championship game. ?
Unfortunately for his players, they couldn’t hold down Dayton (25-12), who was led by Marcus Johnson with 20 points. Dayton guard Paul Williams added 16 points.
The win marked the first NIT title for Dayton in 42 years and, according to reports, it may be the last title the tournament ever awards.
NCAA officials appeared close to expanding the NCAA Tournament from 64 participating teams to 96, according to ESPN. An expanded Final Four tournament may lead to the end of the NIT, which is owned by the NCAA.?
“Might be a fitting way to end it, for us to win it,” Dayton coach Brian Gregory told reporters. “Our national brand, in a lot of ways, was built right here in Madison Square Garden.”?
Williams said he believed the historical win would have been fitting for his team, too. But this season simply played out well below North Carolina’s traditional standards.?
“It’s been an unusual year for North Carolina basketball,” Williams said. “I’ve lived a charmed life in the past, and this has been a little tougher. I’m so proud of our guys for coming to play in this NIT and playing so well up until today and getting us to this point. We just didn’t finish the job.”