Busting Brackets

UNC Basketball: 3 takeaways from a season-ending Sweet 16 loss to Alabama

A poor second half doomed the Tar Heels in Los Angeles
Alabama v North Carolina
Alabama v North Carolina / Harry How/GettyImages
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Sometimes you win, sometimes you lose, and sometimes your season is ended by a 6'11" transfer from North Dakota State. College basketball is a funny game.

North Carolina became the first 1-seed to bow out of the NCAA Tournament on Thursday night, falling in a wild game to 4-seed Alabama in the Sweet 16. The Tar Heels led by eight after the wildest half of the tournament, but the Crimson Tide came roaring back behind an unlikely source: Grant Nelson, a mustachioed senior transfer who overshadowed Mark Sears, RJ Davis, and every other player on the court on his way to 24 points, 12 rebounds, and five blocks.

This loss marks the end of the collegiate careers of Armando Bacot and Cormac Ryan, and Tar Heel fans will now wait with bated breath to find out if RJ Davis has played his last game in Carolina blue, too.

This game was an up-tempo battle from start to finish. Where did Carolina fall short? Let's look at three takeaways from a loss that will haunt the Tar Heel faithful for months.

1. RJ Davis chose the most unfortunate time to have his worst game of the season

It's tough enough to make a deep run in March, but it's nearly impossible to do it if your best player isn't at his best. This game had 23 three-pointers from 10 different players, and First Team All-American RJ Davis had none of them. This was Carolina's 37th game of the season, and the first one in which Davis didn't make at least one three.

Davis' shot was off all night. He got some good looks, but he just couldn't get one to fall. To his credit, he began attacking the basket late in the second half, and he finished with 16 points thanks in large part to eight makes from the free throw line. All season, though, we've seen the invigorating effect a Davis three has had on the entire Carolina roster, but for whatever reason, he couldn't provide that spark this time.

When Carolina needed a bucket in the final minute to stay alive, Davis twice had the ball in his hands, but he forced up tough, contested shots both times, one of which got blocked by Nelson. The other one didn't even hit the rim, resulting in a shot clock violation that more or less ended the game and the season.

Davis' former teammate Caleb Love suffered through an eerily similar poor shooting night in the early game for Arizona, also going 0-9 from deep as his team was upset by Clemson. What seemed like a collision course between two guys that nearly carried the Tar Heels to a championship two years ago instead became a matchup between two schools that usually features Nick Saban and Dabo Swinney.

Hopefully this isn't the end of Davis' Tar Heel career, especially after such an uncharacteristically bad game. He's been the consummate leader, and he's put in the work to improve by leaps and bounds every year, turning himself into an All-American and the ACC Player of the Year in the process. One day his jersey will be hanging in the Smith Center rafters, but it would be a shame for him to go out like this.