Some folks aren't taking Saturday's loss in Lexington very well. Most of them haunt message boards and other corners of the internet, and I'm not about to go trolling them just to find people to disagree with. Luckily I don't have to, because Mike DeCourcy, licensed sportswriter, is reacting just as badly.
DeCourcy is very annoyed at the Tar Heels' reaction to Anthony Davis's block – which, you recall, was to stand there shocked – and reels off who could have fouled him and when, down to the second. I still think that occasionally players are too shocked to react, and "John Henson having his shot blocked" definitely counts as a shocking event. And Kendall Marshall agrees:
"I just knew we were going to win the game," Marshall said. "I had that feeling: We’re going to make this shot. I think to just see it at the end—it kind of took me a couple seconds to realize that Davis got a hand on it. At that point, I think we as a team thought the time had run out."
Keep in mind, the previous seconds had been pretty chaotic as well, and it's easy to lose track of how much time was remaining. But what I really don't understand is DeCourcy's other criticism:
The absence of the clock-stopping foul was not the team’s only late error. There also was an attempted baseline inbounds pass in the corner to guard Dexter Strickland, which deflected off Strickland’s hand and over the sideline with 1:20 left and UNC down 4.
Why attempt a pass to Carolina’s smallest and least effective offensive player at such an impossible position on the court?
Probably because the other three guys were pretty well defended? Also, I'd take issue with Strickland being the least effective offensive player. He currently has the highest offensive rating among the starters, in fact. He doesn't shoot much, but he's quick, can get the ball where it needs to go, and when he does shoot, the ball goes in. I've never yelled at the TV, "Don't give Strickland the ball!" I've never needed to.
The important thing to me is that the players have quickly identified what they did wrong. Nobody fouled. Henson didn't take the ball to the basket. (I wonder if the missed dunk in the first half had anything to do with that, actually.) DeCourcy seems to think the ball should have been kicked out to Barnes, but it was a broken play, and when you have an open two you don't pass it up for a three.
I think the Heels are a lot more prepared for the rigors of the season than DeCourcy and others seem to suggest. And I don't think they need "swagger." A little toughness inside, maybe, but everything else is coming together, including the prior weak point of perimeter shooting. The loss is agonizing, but not panic-inducing. Enjoy the holiday cream puffs, and se how the team does against Texas in a few weeks.