So the question is: why can't they get it together? Why can't they at the very least play defense like their lives depended on it?
You can cut Strickland and Wear some slack as freshmen, and mostly exempt Henson from this discussion as he showed more heart and passion than the rest of his teammates, but otherwise, what the hell? How did Williams lose this group?
Even after you make allowances for injuries, the answer has to come down, primarily, to coaching. Why is it that Zeller would rather shoot from the foul line than bang inside? Why can't someone persuade Drew to not make pointless, random forays into the lane? Why isn't William Graves playing to his strengths? As big and strong as he is, why isn't Thompson more of a factor inside? How can they keep just tossing the ball to no one?
That's from the Duke Basketball Report's coverage of the game, and it seems like as good a place to start as any. First off, I don't have answers to any of those questions. I don't think anyone does. I'm not sure you can blame it on the coaching, however.
Roy Williams' postgame comments have become a broken record by this point, always boiling down to the same point. "We came into the game wanting to do this, this, and this, and we didn't do them." There's been, to my knowledge, no change in coaching style, no implementation of a different style of play, and no drop off in intensity from Williams. It's the same coaching that won two national championships. Nor has there been some tectonic shift in the college basketball landscape since last April that would require a major adaptation to which UNC has been unable to manage. It's simply, UNC wants to do this, this, and this, and they don't do it.
I can't imagine it's laziness amongst the players, as that would have been run out of them early in the course of a season, with the number of people jockeying for playing time. And there haven't been whispers of discontent in the locker room. The best argument I could entertain is that not enough time is being spent on fundamentals, as evidenced by the horrid shooting and turnovers, but I have no way of knowing what the breakdown of a practice is like and won't begin to speculate.
And frankly, it's more gratifying for an opposing fan to attack the coaching as opposed to the playing ability, as next year will bring new players but the same coaches. I'm not above this; I've often looked upon Krzyzewski as an overrated coach, especially over the past half a decade when copious numbers of McDonald's All-Americans entered and left Cameron without showing much improvement.
The other thing is, you can look at the one player who has improved the most over the course of the season, John Henson, and chalk up much of said improvement to coaching. Specifically, moving him from the three spot, where he came in wanting to play as that's where he expects to be in the pros, to the four, where he's used his height more and even built up a bit of strength. I assume Williams isn't only coaching Henson in practice, while the other fourteen players goo on Twitter; why he's evolving while the rest of the team doesn't is a mystery to me. (It helps that him and Larry Drew are the only players who come to mind who haven't been injury-plagued this season.)
So I don't know why this team can't get it together. Other teams this young have had this problem, but clicked and turned things around. The time to do that is January, however. Williams has high hopes for the ACC Tournament, but he's the only one. We'll discuss how that might go tomorrow, I think. The ACC does have a history of underperforming teams getting it together – Wake in '06, N.C. State in too many years to count – so that might be the place to start. It's not like things are rosy in Atlanta, either.