Not even this North Carolina team could survive a brilliant Alabama in an 89-87 Sweet 16 defeat on Thursday night.

Too many things went wrong even for the Tar Heels, with its 29 wins, regular-season ACC crown, blue-collar defense and penchant for finding unorthodox ways to win.

North Carolina’s consensus All-American, RJ Davis, missed everything, shooting 4-20 from the field and 0-9 from deep and even missing once at the free throw line, where he made 87% of his shots this season.

The Tar Heels, one of the nation’s best rebounding teams, were stalemated on the glass by Alabama, which entered the contest ranked 245th in defensive rebounding and saw one of its best rebounding bigs, Nick Pringle, injure his heel in the second half.

North Carolina’s old reliable., Armando Bacot, battled foul trouble, sitting for 5 long minutes in the second half as Alabama erased an 8-point halftime deficit and took a narrow lead. Bacot never seemed himself again when he returned to the floor.

In a 3-point game with 7 minutes to play, Bacot missed a dunk.  With Alabama leading by 2 with just 4 minutes to play, Bacot fumbled away a pass deep under the basket, setting up a Grant Nelson triple on the other end to stake the Crimson Tide to a 5-point lead.

The Tar Heels weren’t finished. This team, on what has to be deemed a successful Redemption Tour, despite falling short of the Final Four, rattled off 4 consecutive stops, and Davis poured in a handful of free throws to give Carolina a 3-point lead with 92 seconds to play.

But Alabama was just better and smarter.

Mark Sears, the Crimson Tide’s brilliant All-SEC guard, slashed through the lane and poured in a layup to cut it to 1. The Crimson Tide snatched the lead back a possession later, after a dreadful middle of the shot clock 3 by Jae’Lyn Withers clanged off the iron and Withers compounded his error by fouling Alabama’s Nelson on a layup moments later.

A seeming misfit with Nate Oats and Alabama’s style for much of the season, Nelson was marvelous on Thursday night, scoring a game-high 24 points, grabbing 12 rebounds, and blocking 5 shots, all but 1 near the tin. On what would be the game’s deciding sequence, Nelson, caught in a seeming mismatch, suffocated a late shot clock drive by RJ Davis, forcing a shot clock violation with his length and burying 2 huge free throws moments later to all but seal the victory and a spot in the Elite 8 for the Crimson Tide.

Seeking the program’s 22nd Final Four, North Carolina simply made fewer winning plays than Alabama, which will now play Clemson for their program’s first trip to the Final Four on Saturday.

That it was Davis and Bacot who seemed to make the biggest mistakes makes the defeat especially sour.

The supporting crew to North Carolina’s marvelous duo, impactful all season, was good again.

Cormac Ryan made 5 3-pointers, grabbed 5 rebounds and played solid defense, helping North Carolina force 7 live ball turnovers leading to 12 points. Harrison Ingram stuffed the stat sheet, scoring 12 points, hauling in 9 rebounds and dishing out 5 assists. The Tar Heels’ bench outscored the Crimson Tide’s 15-7.

On a night when Davis and Bacot were themselves, that would have been enough.

Instead, the Tar Heels needed other heroes, and no one else answered the bell.

Elliot Cadeau, the dynamic point guard who helped make this offense go all season, made 2 early 3-pointers but was bothered by Alabama’s quickness and length and managed just 1 assist before Davis removed him entirely down the stretch, opting to get his bigs on the floor to try to pound the glass. Seth Trimble, so good in  both wins in Charlotte last week, was also quiet, hitting 2 first half 3-pointers but going silent in the second half when the game tightened and the Tar Heels needed his driving ability to command help and create looks for shooters.

If Alabama’s bet was that Bacot and Davis alone couldn’t beat them, they were right, I suppose. But Davis missed a ton of open looks, and Bacot’s foul trouble did more to limit him than the Crimson Tide.

Still, Alabama found a way to win where Carolina did not.

Aaron Estrada, the latest Oats transfer portal jackpot, was masterful, scoring 19 points, many on tough makes, to keep the Crimson Tide in the game throughout the first 30 minutes. He also played his best defense of the season, hounding Ryan in the second half and offering help to Mark Sears and the rest of the Crimson Tide on Davis when switches compelled it.

Rylan Griffin went nuclear, burying 5 3-pointers — at least 3 of which featured a North Carolina defender in his face — to score 19 points and help the Crimson Tide backcourt overwhelm the Tar Heels in the second half.

And for all the basketball purists curious about the value of analytics, Oats outcoached Hubert Davis, focusing on forcing RJ Davis to his less comfortable right, doubling Bacot in the post, and slagging off North Carolina’s less capable shooters on the bet that eventually, they’d shoot the way their percentages say they shoot. Alabama’s defense, much maligned all season, held the Tar Heels to 26% from the field in the second half, saving their best performance for their biggest half of the season.

Alabama ends the Carolina Redemption Tour, but in a fitting reversal, the Crimson Tide’s Redemption Tour marches on.

A year ago, Alabama was the No. 1 overall seed that played tight and afraid in the Sweet 16 and went home.

A year later, Alabama played freely and ferociously, and the Elite 8 awaits.

That game will be a rematch of a regular-season loss to Clemson, which throttled the Crimson Tide in Tuscaloosa in late November.

Redeem that defeat, and Alabama’s own edition of a Redemption Tour ends where the Tar Heels thought they would be — the Final Four.