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Tar Heel Hangover: I volunteer for a win!

Thoughts on a tough road victory.

NCAA Basketball: North Carolina at Tennessee Randy Sartin-USA TODAY Sports

Welcome to the Tar Heel Hangover. This is our Monday morning opportunity to review last week’s game, second guess all of the key moments, and set the game plan for the week ahead.

The Elevator Speech: The State of the Team.

The Heels have not played an easy non-conference schedule and this week was no different. A loud and boisterous environment provided a real test for the team on Sunday. Despite some early jitters, there was a real sense of calm and composure over the last two minutes, which was sufficient to pull out the win.

Words of Wisdom? A Thought from MGD.

“The first half looked like Michigan State. I guess, though, that it does not matter how long you lead as long as you are ahead at the end.”

Carolina led the game for a whopping 91 total seconds. As they say in golf, as long as the last 4 inches are straight down, the rest of the putt doesn’t matter. The team never looked shaken down the stretch and had clutch contributions from multiple players to pull out the victory.

The “looked like Michigan State” comment from My Grumpy Dad deserves additional review. Coming in to this season, I assumed that it would be physical front courts that would cause the team problems. I thought that was precisely what we saw against the Spartans in the PK80 championship. I am now not so sure.

The experienced guards, that I still believe to be the strength of the team, looked timid and had trouble with ball control through most of the first frame. As the turnovers mounted, there seemed to be a significant level of discomfort that was only reinforced with a couple of early Joel Berry II fouls and a seat on the bench for the last eight minutes of the first half.

The second half seemed much different with a more fluid offense and controlled pace of play. Perhaps the physical Tennessee interior forced a perimeter oriented early style but I am starting to think the true culprit was aggressive man-to-man on the guards. It may be time to look at the Michigan State game differently and to build from that loss, and this win, in a different way.

Lying In Bed, I Am Worried About. . .

The dribble-drive defense. I know this sounds like a broken record, but Tennessee missed a lot of open three’s in the second half (many of which seemed to actually go in to the basket and then magically come back out the top). There is such a sense of protectionism for the interior that the helping guards are leaving open shooters. In this day and age of college basketball that tendency will ultimately prove fatal. Fortunately, it did not last night.

With the looks that they got, however, the Volunteers could have easily shot higher than their 36% from three and it could have been a different game.

When I Talk to Haters, I Brag About . . .

10-1 with another solid road/neutral win. This is a team that is still yet to play a single game with its full compliment of players (note that Cameron Johnson did dress and warm up but did not play. I was certain we would see him but my intuition was erroneous yet again. Much like my intuition that the fourth cup of eggnog at the office holiday party would make my jokes “lots of funny.”).

What the college basketball world saw Sunday afternoon should be at least a little bit scary. This is a team with quality guards that know how to win in the closing moments.

Final Thoughts

Wofford comes to Chapel Hill this week before a trip to New Orleans for the CBS Sports Classic against Ohio State. Taking care of business over the next six days sets up promising start to the conference season.