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Which Way Is UNC Going?

Tar Heel Fan has an excellent summary of what he sees as the five pressing issues for UNC at the moment. Of the five, I've never been concerned about a 12-man rotation and feel no need to start now. If you have the talent to play that many people, by all means do so.

Nor am I particularly worried about opposing shooting guards having big nights - someone's got to take the shots for the other team, and I much rather have those shots come from low-percentage outside areas, especially with the typical UNC rebounding advantage. Yes, the guards listed all had gaudy scoring numbers, but Scheyer was 8-18, Smith 5-13, and Dowdell 12-22 over two games. (Dowdell especially got most of his points from the free throw line - he took 34 shots from the charity stripe for 28 points in the two meetings.) Fell (8-11), Strawberry (12-18) and Ravio (5-7) had great shooting nights, but I couldn't tell you how much of that came against which defender. As long as they are coming with a hand in their face and not easy fast break lay-ups, I won't complain.

The other three points - the half court set, rebounding, and a killer instinct - are unfortunately dead on. This team should always outrebound their opponent, and yet they've failed to do so five times (Gonzaga, Kentucky, Arizona, N.C. State and Maryland. The Hokies apparently don't need a board advantage to win.) Equally troubling is the inability to run a half-court offense late in the game - the dwindling minutes of the Maryland and overtime Virginia Tech games were especially bad - and the recent late lead losses are worrisome things to see this close to March.

Back in December and January, I was convinced this year's NCAA final would be a Carolina-Ohio State affair. The two teams were, along with Wisconsin and Florida, in a class above the rest of college basketball, and these two teams in particular had more depth and talent than the rest of the field. Now I'm looking at a team that I'm not convinced will be around for the second week of the bracket. While tonight's game against the similarly young but less talented Yellow Jackets shouldn't be a problem, the Duke game and the ACC tournament, home of three consecutive years of underachievement from the Tar Heels will go a long way in determining whether this team has the mental toughness to stick around into the next month.