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The Weekend Trip to Charleston Was Not the Mistake

John Gasaway traces UNC's Monday night woes to three things:

This bit of man-bites-dog can be traced to: 1) a spirited rally by the Cougars in the final four minutes of regulation (keyed by eight straight points from Andrew Goudelock); 2) the absence of two UNC starters (Marcus Ginyard and Will Graves); and 3) the person in Chapel Hill who had the bright idea of playing a road game against College of Charleston. Keep in mind that Jim Boeheim gets yelled at every year without fail for keeping his Syracuse team in the safe cocoon of the Carrier Dome (albeit with occasional forays to neutral floors) until conference play drags his Orangemen kicking and screaming downstate. Well, right now Boeheim looks like Jim Caldwell to Roy Williams‘ Bill Belichick.

That last point is just a nice way of saying mid-major teams are dangerous at home, but I feel the need to point something out anyway. Playing at Charleston was a good thing. Teams get better facing challenges, not being coddled at home, and there's no downside to a team like UNC playing at Charleston. If Carolina were to miss the NCAA tournament – and they won't – there will be many more losses to blame besides this one. Even if this game sent the team into a 2002-like death spiral – and again, it won't – then, well, a team that mentally weak was doomed anyway. I'm sure there's some degree of difficulty in a schedule that could doom an otherwise good UNC team, but we're nowhere near that. More teams should play home-and-aways at mid-major schools, especially ones they might lose. It would get more small teams to the postseason, and do a lot more for the coaching fraternity and their mid-major squads than other folks' silly ideas to expand the tournament. (You want another Patriot League team in the NCAA's? Why not travel to their home floor?)

(While we're at it, don't blame the accommodations either. You should see some of the hotels the top seed in an NCAA regional gets. Swank.)

I also think people are overestimating the loss of Ginyard and Graves had on the team. The guards who did play weren't tired at the game's end, at made no more mistakes than the team has in any of the other games this season. At most Graves would have certainly added to the total number of threes taken; he leads the team in attempts. There's no guarantee they would have found the bottom of the net however, as he takes more ill-advised shots than anyone on the team. 

The rest of Gasaway's analysis is spot on, though. Especially the conclusion:

Funny thing is, the Tar Heels’ problems in this game do not necessarily loom largest as their likely problems going forward. If I’m a Carolina fan I’m more worried about turnovers the next eight weeks than I am about shots going in. (Shots from the field, that is. This is one mediocre team at the line. Where have you gone, Psycho-T?) And while Williams’ team faces a relatively kind intro to ACC play (four of their first six contests are at the Dean Dome and the two road games are at Clemson and NC State), we are now 14 games into what was supposed to be this young team’s learning curve. In their 14th game the team learned about improbable upsets on the road.   

And, of course, the Mid-Majority has a good write-up of the whole thing.