But is was all gravy right? At least that is the consolation Tar Heel fans are employing this evening after watching UNC come out like world beaters against George Mason then settle into a rut which lasted the rest of the game. UNC played a horrible game, committed six straight turnovers to start the second half and had a lot of trouble getting the ball to Tyler Hansbrough. David Noel playing for his career hit the big shots to keep UNC in it but ultimately the weak guard play from UNC finally caught up. The Patriots played some good defense, was able to consecutive threes with the shot clock at five seconds and seemed to have little trouble scoring on the interior. GM also did an excellent job of dictating the pace and holding UNC 20 points under their average. I thought the foul calls were a little lopsided considering UNC usually attempts 24 free throws a game but only attempted four this time around. However, there was no ref conspiracy, UNC should have played better pure and simple. Hansbrough only having 10 points was a big stat. No other Tar Heel hit double figures.
I mentioned back in my pre-ACC Tournament post that one issue teams faces is which team would come to play, if there was a definitive point in the season where a team started playing better. UNC started the season 12-5 through January then went 9-1 ending with a win at Duke. Once the postseason started it seemed like the turnover prone UNC of November through January reemerged rather than the hot Heels of February and early March. I suppose that is the pitfall of an inexperienced team. The Heels ended the season 23-8 which is a far cry from what many expected. Which leads me to the "gravy" talk. It almost seems like a cop out because it seemed like by beating Duke they had fully trascended the rebuilding status and were proned to greater things. The Duke game was the peak point and in many ways like winning a championship considering the power of the rivalry and the attention it garnered. UNC's failure to play well over the next four games was probably a combination of the ebb and flow of a team's performance and the inexperience of the freshman. Lots of pundits like to say that there are no freshman in the postseason, but if it is their first postseason then, yes, they are freshman still. When the season began and the prognosticators said UNC would be fortunate to make the NCAA Tournament much less be competitive in the ACC I took no umbrage because UNC had just won the title and that was enough to placate me if we had to endure a rebuilding year, no matter how traumatic. Roy Williams did a great job taking some talented personnel and making this year a successful year. I always like at least getting to the Sweet Sixteen because I think that denotes separation and gives you a few more days of basketball to talk about. It was not meant to be and despite the collapse seen today in Dayton, it was a great season considering how bad it could have been. So pass the gravy.
As for next season, UNC loses David Noel and Byron Sanders, and assuming Hansbrough stays put(which he should because today is a good indication he is not ready for the NBA) then the returning rotation minus Noel and the addition of five of the top 32 players in high school(including three in the top 10) should put UNC in the top ten, if not #1 in the country. In other words expectations will be back to normal levels in Chapel Hill and gravy will not be on the menu.
I will have a NCAA wrapup tommorrow.