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Beyond Basketball: Can the Tar Heels Thrive in Other Sports in 2024?

When it comes to the University of North Carolina Tar Heels, the sporting discussion typically begins and ends with their men’s basketball team, whose six national championships and 21 Final Four appearances both rank among the highest in the history of college basketball. While the Tar Heels deserve every bit of the credit they receive for their basketball success, the adulation heaped upon them does feel like it detracts from the rest of their sports.

North Carolina Athletic Director Lawrence R. “Bubba” Cunningham is one of the best at his job in all of college athletics, and he’s helped pave the way for a series of consistent winners since assuming the role in November of 2011. Right now, the Tar Heels’ men’s basketball team sits No. 7 in the country, seemingly poised for another deep tournament run… but before March Madness rolls around, we’re going to take a look at the other areas where UNC seems poised for success in 2024.

College Baseball

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College baseball starts up later this week, and it looks like it’s going to be an exciting year for the Tar Heels, who are ranked anywhere between No. 14 and No. 17 in the various preseason rankings. The ACC has long been one of the strongest conferences for college baseball, and it seems like 2024 will be no different.

Perhaps most exciting is that the Tar Heels aren’t the only team from North Carolina widely expected to succeed this year: it’s one thing to win a bunch of games, but yet another to do so when you’re facing a dogfight against your natural rivals in the process.

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Each of the other three ACC teams that call North Carolina home saw themselves ranked in the preseason polls, with Wake Forest the consensus No. 1 team after a College World Series appearance last year, and both Duke and NC State ranked neck and neck with UNC depending on which poll you’re looking at.

The Tar Heels will have an uphill battle to win the ACC this year, but they could be an excellent sleeper pick at North Carolina sports betting sites, especially if outfielder Vance Honeycutt, a defensive wizard and a likely lottery pick in the upcoming draft class, is able to make good on his preseason buzz as a Golden Spikes Award contender.

Can Mack Brown Get Over the Hump?

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The Tar Heels’ baseball team isn’t the only club with a top draft pick set to hit the pros at some point in 2024. UNC quarterback Drake Maye is likely to go in the top 3 of the upcoming NFL draft, and he’s getting a decent amount of buzz as the No. 1 overall pick.

It’ll be an excellent feather in the cap for head coach Mack Brown’s program, especially on the heels of Sam Howell getting drafted by the Washington Commanders, although it also sets up some question marks for the program moving forward. The transition from Howell to Maye was pretty much seamless, but these Tar Heels teams have never managed to reach their full potential.

North Carolina climbed as high as No. 10 last year, looking like an ACC Championship caliber team as they raced out of the gate to a 6-0 start. The wheels fell off from there, as the Tar Heels won just two of seven games down the stretch… and whoever they end up settling on at quarterback next season will have big shoes to fill in attempting to replace Maye, the most successful signal caller in the history of the program.

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Brown is always going to have the Tar Heels in the thick of things, but it’s perfectly reasonable to ask questions about the team’s ceiling, especially when you consider their postseason letdowns.

Shoutout to Soccer

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Both the men’s and women’s soccer teams made deep NCAA Tournament runs in 2023, seeing their season’s end in the quarterfinals. Postseason success is pretty much the norm for the women’s team, which is far and away the most successful team in NCAA history—and not just in their own sport, but perhaps in any sport—having won 21 of 41 National Championships since the Women’s College Cup began.

The men’s team isn’t anywhere near the level of the women’s team (of course, no one is), but they’ve also enjoyed quite a bit of success during the 13 years that head coach Carlos Somoano has led the program. Much like with baseball, the ACC is one of the premier conferences for both men’s and women’s soccer, and the Tar Heels have played a massive role in creating that reputation.

If you’re going to try to make it to a UNC game or two this year, do yourself a favor and check out the soccer teams, because both the athletes and their coaching staffs deserve plenty of praise for their success.

In Conclusion

While the University of North Carolina Tar Heels’ basketball team rightfully commands attention with its storied history, 2024 unveils a broader arena of athletic promise. Under the astute leadership of Lawrence R. “Bubba” Cunningham, the university propels toward success across various sports.

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In college baseball, the Tar Heels position themselves between No. 14 and No. 17, facing fierce ACC competition alongside in-state rivals. The emergence of outfielder Vance Honeycutt adds intrigue, making UNC a potential sleeper pick.

On the football front, quarterback Drake Maye’s NFL draft buzz adds to the program’s prestige, though the transition raises questions about the team’s ultimate potential after past postseason challenges.

Soccer sees both men’s and women’s teams making deep NCAA Tournament runs, cementing the Tar Heels’ legacy in one of the ACC’s premier sports.

Beyond basketball, 2024 promises a diverse and exciting sports landscape for UNC, inviting fans to witness triumphs on the baseball diamond, the football field, and the soccer pitch. As the Tar Heels aim for greatness, their success paints a compelling narrative beyond the hardwood, showcasing the university’s athletic prowess across multiple arenas.