Well, that didn't go well at all did it?
First of all, here at Tar Heel Fan, the panic button is tucked safely away. It is November and quite frankly this kind of stuff is to be expected. I mean as I am writing this, Georgia Tech, who has looked every bit the part of world beater so far is getting their collective clocks cleaned by #5 UCLA. As I said before it is good thing they play the NCAA Tournament in March. Secondly, make no mistake Gonzaga is a good team. Everyone wrote them off for losing key players and rightfully so. They have proved otherwise for now, though I would love another shot at them in March.
As for the game it boils down to something very simple. Gonzaga hit shots and UNC didn't. Cutting edge analysis for sure, but that is really where it was decided. I would also say that Gonzaga did an excellent job shutting down Tyler Hansbrough who was obviously so flustered in the second half he committed two travels which if you watched Hansbrough last season was something he had trouble with from time to time. Hansbrough had a tendency to move his feet when trying to work for a shot. Late last season he work it out but tonight with the defense perfectly tuned to stop him he seemed to regress somewhat and also lack that usual manner of agression we see from him. Bottom line for me is he had an off night. The problem at this point in the season is UNC seem ill equipped to deal with the off night from Hansbrough. If Hansbrough is going to be cut off from offensive production that means the rest of the gang needs to step up. Brandan Wright did that tonight and with the exception of his free throw shooting he was huge in many respects. Bobby Frasor hit some threes and Ty Lawson showed some brillance tonight. So the bottom line on the offense was that Hansbrough was shut down and the rest of the team did not respond as well as they needed to in order to win the game. The offense was out of sorts pure and simple which is something that should get better as the season progresses. Add to all of this the fact UNC shot horribly from the floor and I am not entirely convinced that was a product of Gonzaga defense as it was the UNC players could not hit a shot if their scholarship depended on it.
On the other side of the coin, while I think Gonzaga is a good team, I also think they shot the ball at a level which was unprecedented for them so far this season, especially from the perimeter. The Bulldogs could not seem to miss for most of the game and some of that was just plain lights out shooting. One aspect of their offensive production is that certain UNC players cannot play defense adequately enough. In fact let me just come right out and say I think Reyshawn Terry's play in general is downright horrendus but his defense was really horrible tonight. And as quick as Ty Lawson is I still cannot understand how Prago kept getting by him for easy baskets. Time and time again UNC failed to play good team defense. Too many opposing players were left open for shots and while Gonzaga was hot from the floor, there is an element of that tied up in how much you give them
Another issue is that of intensity and focus. UNC's youth shows up mostly when they are tested or adversity arises. UNC came out in the first five minutes like gang busters and then when Gonzaga got a handle on things, proceeded to disrupt the offense and from that point on it was like UNC was sleepwalking. Everything seemed out of sync and they were simply being outplayed and outhustled through the first half and through 8 minutes of the second half where they fell behind by 16. Then with 10 minutes to go UNC seemed to flip a switch and closed the gap to as close as four but could not get a big shot to drop to get any closer. The question I have been asking all along here is where is the 40 minutes of full intensity and focus because tonight what we saw tonight was about 15 minutes worth and the rest just a stunned group of players trying to figure how they fell so far behind. Whether it is the youth, lack of leadership, or just the by product of having so much talent that they do not really apply themselves unless they absolutely have to, I am not sure but you can bet it will be dealt with when they return from New York
So, in one respect I am not panicked. Heck, this is probably a good wake up call for them and hopefully will light some fires under some butts to get the team moving. The experience level or lack thereof is evident as is the lack of cohesion and chemistry on the court. I think Roy Williams will probably look to settle on a solid nine man rotation just to create some stability. The point guard question should probably be answered at some point but I think that all depends on how quickly Lawson can get accilmated. He showed some good stuff tonight but also showed some inexperience. The offense is a work in progress and until they can develop consistent options outside of Hansbrough and now Wright i.e. shoot the ball from the perimeter, then defense keying on the paint will make life difficult for UNC. I think the most important part of the equation is dealing with the attitudes and intensity levels of the players. Things like hustle, being the aggressor, and playing with passion are missing in huge chunks and that needs to change with some leadership in the locker room and the players simply "getting it"
- This is game is proof positive why winning the national title is so freaking difficult. All it takes is one game with shooting like this coupled with a difficult defense and the other team playing inspired basketball to send you home from the Big Dance. In fact this one felt a lot like the George Mason game last March.
- As miserable as watching this game was listening to Brent Musberger and Steve Lavin was as close as I have been to bursting my eardrums with an ink pen since the last time I heard Dick Vitale call a game, so about two days ago. Anyway, Musberger sounded like he was drunk through most of the first half and Lavin just was not very good and kept referring to Hansbrough as "Hansborough." My advice to Lavin is too check out the media packet he gets from the UNC Sports Information Office, I am quite certain they included a pronuciation guide for the player's name.
- Let me just say that Raivio kid on Gonzaga looked like he was about 12 yars old. Seriously.
- This win for Gonzaga sets up a date with Butler for the NIT Championship. I am sure the powers that be are thrilled to have a half full arena for a game between these two schools.
- If anyone has seen Reyshawn Terry please call the UNC basketball office.