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Illinois 79 UNC 67

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/rant on

You know what?

Screw it.

It is 11:58 PM EST and I really don't have the time or inclination to sit here and make the same freaking points I have been making since January. It is really simple. Hold onto the basketball and you might find enough offense to stay with the other team. Don't do that and sooner or later they end up scoring more points. Because that's what happened. UNC did not shoot all that poorly. The Heels hit 47% of their shots and 5-15 fro three isn't great but it's not putrid either. No, the issue is you cannot give the ball up 25% of your possessions especially if the tempo is slower than it was two years ago. When the pace is insane, more turnovers are expected which is why the TO% is a better measure than the sheer number. For this team, that number continues to be high and it disrupts any offensive continuity you might have. Not to mention, turnovers gives your opponent easier scoring chances such as transition. Oh and hit some freaking free throws...please.

It is a simple formula. Your defense is going to give up points, every defense gives up points. It will happen but the way you get ahead is taking advantage of the opposing team's failure to score by scoring points on your end. UNC's biggest problem right now is the fact they cannot put together more than about two possessions where they score. Leading 10-6 after the first TV timeout UNC committed several turnovers in a row. Give me 3-4 scoring possession in that span while Illinois is missing shots or turning the ball over themselves and suddenly it is a 10-12 point lead. Does that mean UNC holds the lead and wins? No, but so much of what happens in a game is one play or series of plays building on another in terms of confidence and game pressure. There is an inevitable pattern emerging this season which is somewhat different from last year and that is UNC comes out of the gate fine but then loses all manner of focus, falls behind and then cannot get back over the hump due in part to an inconsistent offense. This is at least the 3rd game I noted UNC being between 1-3 possessions behind and they draw in but cannot get the crucial stop or hit the right shot and suddenly the lead re-extends. It's like UNC is on a treadmill at times without any hope of moving forward.

As for solutions, I don't have any and let's all be honest, none of us have any. We can sit here and debate Marshall over Drew or Roy's recruiting or the price of tea in China but in the end I am not sure there are any easy fixes. Yes, the team could use some bona fide on the court leadership. Yes, it would be nice for Harrison Barnes to live up to his freaking high school ranking. I don't want to ride the kid too much because I, for one, have never been put in a position where that much pressure is on me. However, I do take issue with Roy constantly dropping the freshman excuse like this is 1986 and freshmen starting is some kind of novelty. Plenty of freshmen play huge, especially ones ranked #1 by every major recruiting service save Rivals who must have lost a bet with someone. Plenty of freshmen show up ready to play, contribute and carry a team on their shoulders. Tyler Hansbrough did it with as little fanfare as possible. Harrison Barnes should be carrying this team yet from what I see, Leslie McDonald is a better shooter and more inclined to make plays than a guy people thought would be playing in the NBA next year. I am not sure what Roy is waiting for on Barnes except maybe Barnes looks like Michael Jordan in practice and turns into Michael Copeland in the game.

And not to let this rant go completely negative, but it there are bright spots. Then again, that actually makes this more frustrating. There are signs of players doing good things on both ends of the floors. It is just not often enough or coming from a sufficient number of players. John Henson finally looks legitimate. He is still going to struggle with more physical teams but Henson has learned how to use his body, some post moves and has a reliable hook shot. The same is true of Tyler Zeller. Unfortunately that is it. The guards are barely producing, Barnes looks scared or worse and PG play is good only in very small spurts. There is life on this planet but not nearly enough to build anything meaningful until the Heels can find a way to produce more of it, especially from the back court.

So, feel free to burn up the comments section with ideas, rants, theories, criticisms and whatever venting you can come up with. There are no easy answers. Despite that fact, I am all for shaking up the lineup. Put the three freshmen out there with Henson and Zeller. Living with freshmen mistakes has to be easier than living with whatever this is right? Roy needs to do something drastic because doing the same thing over and over while expecting a different result is the definition of insanity. We have wandered into George Constanza territory here. If everything you are doing is wrong, then by definition the opposite must be right. Maybe Roy needs to start doing the opposite of what his conventional inclination is because I am not sure it can be any worse. Okay, I take that back, of course it can get worse but at least it will feel like something is being done.

/rant off