To go all out in the ACC Tournament or not.
Roy Williams made an interesting point during the ACC conference call today. No one cares if you win the ACC Tournament if it is not then followed by the NCAA Championship. Citing an interview he did after last season he was asked if the Heels' 36-3, ACC Championship and trip to the Final Four was a failure. UNC had a school record in wins, won 17 of 19 ACC games, finished first and then won the ACC Tournament but because of they fell short of winning it all it was potentially a failure.
As Roy ponders the condition of Ty Lawson's right big toe and how much he should invest into the ACC Tournament, this will be the basis of his thought process. That and the fact he thinks the ACC Tournament is just a party to make the league money. So when it comes down to resting Lawson this weekend versus testing his toe, Roy is likely going to opt for the rest. That means Larry Drew assumes the point with a healthy dose of Bobby Frasor. It also likely means UNC could lose as early as Friday.
The perception that the ACC Championship does not matter is valid to a point. The one caveat is the fact UNC can win their third straight ACC title. Tyler Hansbrough, Danny Green, Deon Thompson, Wayne Ellington and Ty Lawson(if he plays) could win their 3rd consecutive title which in itself is quite a feat. Not many players win one ACC Tournament much less three in a row. In that respect it seems like a waste to blow the opportunity off. Next to that you also hate to toss away a potential title that your team is favored to win.
The other nagging issue is the NCAA Tournament seeding. UNC is in line for a #1 seed and winning at least one game in the ACC Tournament should take care of that. Short of that there my be problems. A loss and a few other teams performing well in their respective conference tournaments has the potential of setting up a slew of deserving teams leaving UNC as a #2 seed. Is this a problem? Maybe, maybe not. Connecticut was a #2 seed in 2004 because Emeka Okafor was injured at points in their season and it drove their record down a bit putting them as a #2 instead of #1. UConn rolled in the NCAA Tournament with their only tough game coming against Duke in the Final Four. You may be looking at a similar situation though any loss UNC suffers with Lawson out will probably be thrown out the window by the selection committee. That basically means UNC has nothing to lose if Roy decides to sit Lawson which he can also do for the 1st round game in the NCAA Tournament since UNC would be able to handle the first game without Lawson.
In some ways this reminds me of what happened in 1993. UNC was in much the same position and in the ACC Semifinals against Virginia saw a Cavalier player commit hard foul on the Heels' starting PG Derrick Phelps. He landed hard and Phelps ended up with a bruised tailbone. His status for the ACC Championship game was questionable. Dean Smith ultimately decided it was better to let Phelps rest and heal up than risk him for the title game. Henrik Rodl started at PG and UNC lost the game, not so much because of Rodl but because Georgia Tech's James Forrest was playing out of his mind and the Heels got caught flat. Phelps returned for the NCAA 1st round game versus East Carolina which the Heels won and the rest, as they say, is history.
Undoubtedly Roy is thinking about that and other angles. In the end it will hinge on Lawson's condition come Friday. I think if he is healthy enough, he should play Friday then not play on Saturday or see how it unfolds. If the Heels can manage a semifinals win then the title game really does not matter. They can play Lawson and then not play him in the NCAA 1st round since no #16 has ever beaten a #1 which means a UNC team missing Lawson would be more than enough to take care of things. Then again Roy may want to start the NCAA Tournament with the full team healthy and intact. Whatever the case, we all know that this team was the favorite to win the title since June and whatever decisions must be made even if it means sacraficing an ACC title should be made to given the Heels the best chance at winning those final six games.