But there he was Tuesday, talking about making first NCAA tournament appearance -- shocking considering the Tar Heels' longtime standing as a national power. They haven't been in the tournament since a loss to Penn State in the second round in 2001.
Tar Heels prepare for new experience: NCAA tournament
Not since the days when a single Atlantic Coast Conference team could receive a bid has a North Carolina basketball player waited so long to participate in the NCAA Tournament.
Long time coming
Chapel Hill News
Jackie Manuel sat down at a table in front of reporters Tuesday and answered questions about playing in the NCAA tournament for the first time. The questions were once inconceivable, considering Manuel is a junior at North Carolina. But after missing the tournament for two straight years, the 18th-ranked Tar Heels are starting over.
Tar Heels ready to get rusty dance skills out on the floor
Asheville Citizen Times
Of course, UNC coach Roy Williams has enjoyed his share of NCAA success. In fact, in each of the last two seasons, Williams has led Kansas to the Final Four.
Tar Heels crave more
Durham Herald Sun
If Roy Williams gets out of Denver with two wins, he will likely meet Mississippi State in Atlanta. The Bulldogs have lost three games. That's seven fewer than the Tar Heels.
Dascenzo: Chances are ...
Durham Herald Sun
And then there are juniors Melvin Scott and Jawad Williams, the Heels' other two starters. How they play, and how much they score in the first round against Air Force on Thursday (9:50 p.m.) and beyond, will go a long way in determining the Tar Heels' March fate.
UNC stars need help
Raleigh News and Observer
The Tar Heels' coach, Roy Williams, naturally doesn't want to burden them with any additional psychological baggage. So he's basically avoiding the subject of the mile-high altitude at which North Carolina will play Air Force, a team that just happens to be accustomed to playing 6,000 feet above sea level, Thursday night at Denver's Pepsi Center (10, WFMY-2).
UNC hopes won't vanish in thin air
Greensboro News and Record
Jackie Manuel expects nothing less than a national championship for North Carolina in the NCAA Tournament in the next three weeks.
Heels say they are capable of making run