What: Puerto Rico Tip-off Consolation Game
Where: Coliseo de Puerto Rico, San Juan
When: Sunday, November 21st, 5:30 PM
Records: UNC 2-1, Vanderbilt 2-1
Jump into the Wayback Machine.
The year was 2006 and a young UNC team which had two seniors, one junior, four sophomores and five talented freshmen made a trip to New York to play Gonzaga in the Preseason NIT. UNC lost. Not badly, well sort of when you consider the Heels jumped out to a 10-0 lead, 19-10 at one point but ended up losing by eight. UNC got one good performance from Brandan Wright who had 21 points on 7-16 shooting. Ty Lawson had 11 but only one assist and two turnovers. Bobby Frasor had 11 point and hit three 3-pointers. The rest of the team basically sucked. Wayne Ellington was 2-11 from the floor and 1-7 from three point range for 5 points. Wes Miller went 0-6. Danny Green was 1-4 and Reyshawn Terry was 2-5 with four points. Oh and arguably the greatest player in UNC history, how did he do? Tyler Hansbrough was 2-5 from the floor, 5-9 from the FT line for nine points, nine rebounds and four turnovers. When C.Michael mentioned this game in an email, I immediately recalled how that game felt much the same way as the game on Friday night. UNC shot 36% from the floor, 23% from three and was 18-30 at the FT line.
Now, I am not comparing UNC 2011 to UNC 2007 nor am I equating Gonzaga 2007 to Minnesota 2011. The situation is very similar for UNC. The composition of this Tar Heel team with the mix of returning players and talented freshmen is similar. In both cases you have a bunch of players getting accustomed to playing with each other. A team's identity is not built in a few weeks practice and a handful of games. It takes time. That was the case in 2007 and it is the case now. The 2007 team was obviously a better team but both teams lost an early season tournament game were they played horribly. After UNC lost to Gonzaga, the Heels played Tennessee in a consolation game. They won by 14 and scored 101 points. Everyone played better. The shooting was great. Everything was back on track. For the current Tar Heel team, the question is whether they can have the same bounce back performance versus Vanderbilt.
If the Hofstra game taught us anything, it showed us this team has shooters and can score points. If the Minnesota game had a positive light to it, it was UNC did not get blown out or let the game slip away on a 19-0 run which happened far too often last year. What that means to me is these Tar Heels are more than capable of playing solid basketball. If everyone can snap out of whatever funk they were in on Friday night, UNC should be able to handle Vanderbilt. Besides this is the revenge game for the 30-point secret scrimmage beatdown administered by the Commodores last season which no one really knew about until much later.
This game is about bouncing back, showing some toughness in the wake of a bad loss. There will be ups and downs. The 2007 had its share of inexplicable games and downright mystifying losses. We tends to forget that because 2008 and 2009 covered it all up but go back and look at what happened in that season just as a reminder that a very talented team struggled to make sense of itself during that first full season for the core of the 2009 NCAA title team. Can this team show the same kind of resiliency? I think so and I really hope so. This weekend has been bad enough so for the love of Dean Smith, please don't send me into Monday with two basketball losses, a football defeat at the hands of NC State and the distrubing news that UNC women's soccer is not only capable of losing in the 3rd round of the NCAA Tournament but by three goals as well.
UNC 84 Vanderbilt 70