Many of the national talking heads and local know-it-alls have been putting in their two cents' worth on the state of Carolina basketball in anticipation of Wednesday's game against Duke. Much message board chatter has been generated on this topic, even here at THF. Here are a few nuggets gleaned from the discussions:
How could everyone have been so wrong about this team?
This seems to be the million dollar question. Most knowledgeable UNC fans knew a preseason ranking of in the top 10 was ridiculous, but no one expected the team to drive off the cliff either. A lot of analysis has been done as to recruiting rankings and Robbi Pickeral has a good piece in Tuesday's N&O regarding expectations vs. performance, but what it boils down to is this:
- Ginyard - was expected to be a defensive stopper and score 12-14 points per game, which was a increase but not huge one, from his career totals.
- Thompson - expected to play like he did in junior national competition and in Hansbrough's absence last season. Again, not an unreasonable expectation because he had shown he could do it.
- Davis - expected to play like a projected lottery pick and be a 15 and 10 guy.
- Drew - expected to be an adequate point guard and more important, not hurt the team.
- Graves - expected to start the season at the 3 but quickly lose his slot to Henson
- Zeller - expected to be a stalwart in the middle of an effective 3-man post rotation
- Henson - expected to be the second coming of Brendan Wright.
- Strickland - expected to provide contribution off the bench and back up LDII
- McDonald and the Wear twins - expected to be role players and see spot duty.
What followed was a perfect storm of injuries, people playing out of position, and underachievement. Injuries removed Zeller from the equation and changed Ginyard's season (he was for the most part living up to expectations before the injury). Neither Henson nor Strickland adjusted well to learning a new position and Davis and Thompson just haven't met expectations.
For my two cents' worth, go back and look at that list of expectations and tell me who was expected to be the scorer on this team. I asked the question back in December - down one, ball at halfcourt, five seconds to go, who do you want to touch the ball? Last year, you had three answers you were comfortable with. This year, you can't answer that question.
How could Roy just let John Wall get away?
There's been a little revisionist history going on with the John Wall story as Wall has flourished for the most part at Kentucky and UNC has struggled. Just 12 months ago, there were still a swirl of questions surrounding Wall, who has immense talent but had character questions. The Brian Clifton coach/agent issue was huge and if you believe the stories, Clifton was demanding a fee in the thousands of dollars just to talk to Wall. Yes, Roy got in the game late (mainly around Clifton instead of through him) but it was perfectly clear that Wall was a one-and-done guy (and yes, Roy has had two of those in Chapel Hill but they were guys who mostly played themselves into one-and-dones, not really knowing it up front). Plus, looking at the expectations above, if everyone plays to potential, Wall was not worth the risk at the time.
Of course we now know that Wall has, for the most part, been a model citizen and Carolina has stunk at the point. That is the luxury of hindsight. But at the time, very few people were lamenting the loss of Wall.
Why won't Roy (insert complaint here)?
Roy Williams is who he is. This is the guy who has won two titles, been to 7 Final Fours, won over 600 games and never fewer than 19 in a season. He has done it this way with success for 21 years. Do not expect him to call time outs to stop runs. Not in his nature (though he did call two against Maryland). Do not expect him to make radical lineup changes. Yes, we all wish he would try something else because we desperately want to win. But he did not become an idiot overnight, nor did his eye for recruiting talent suddenly become wrong somehow. This season is just Murphy's Law to the nth degree and for the most part Roy has handled it honorably. The few snippets of frustration he has shown the media are nothing compared to the way he fallen on his sword and taken full responsibility for this season.
UNC was due for something like this.
Since the inception of the ACC in 1953, UNC has had three losing seasons - 1955, 1962 (Dean Smith's first season), and 2002. That's it. That's the list. I can't think of any college or professional team with such a sustained level of success with so few blips. Therein lies the source of such angst among UNC fans - you have to be older than 50 years old to have even experienced this kind of situation more than once.
OK, enough talking. Bring on Dook.