Welcome to the Tar Heel Hangover. This is our Monday morning opportunity to review last week’s action, second guess all of the key moments, and set the game plan for the week ahead.
The Elevator Speech: The State of the Team.
It is difficult to pinpoint precisely what is going on with this team. Head scratching losses for a squad with this much talent and this much experience is unexpected to say the least. Instead of building confidence, the Heels are building doubt.
Words of Wisdom? A Thought from MGD.
Time for a vent. This one is generated more on behalf of My Grumpy Dad than from him.
High school student athletes select their college destination for a number of reasons. Perhaps it is a family connection, as was potentially the case for current Tar Heels Luke Maye and Jalek Felton. Perhaps it is the opportunity to get playing time and national exposure. Perhaps it is the desire for a quality education.
It is not for “the brotherhood.” That is absurd.
This phrase was recently cited by newly signed Duke commitment Zion Williamson. If it is a support network, then it is a selective one. I doubt that Jordan Tucker, or Sean Obi, or Chase Jeter found the familial atmosphere they were seeking in Durham. So what is the real reason why Coach K is able to recruit so successfully?
I believe that prospective college basketball players choose Duke because they want to be hated. It’s not a literal hate where any rational person wishes harm. It is a view of the competitive landscape that an individual wants to be the bad guy. Do Duke games get such high ratings because they have so many fans? Of course not. Everyone tunes in to root against Duke. Whoever they play on a given night is always my second favorite team in the county. As my friend Kevin noted today to ease the pain of Saturday’s loss to State, “at least Virginia beat Duke.”
Some people like to be the villain and if you go to Duke, you are assured of just that. Unfortunately, there seems to be a lot of villains these days.
The University of North Carolina offers an alternative view of the world. The Carolina Way is really a social contract. Come be a Tar Heel and you will be loved.
Obviously, opposing fans root against the Heels. But it is a much different feeling. When Carolina loses, opposing fans are happy that their team won, instead of happy that the Heels lost.
The contract, however, requires something from the player in exchange for the love of the Tar Heel nation; effort. Monday was a great example. MGD attended the game in Blacksburg. He lives too far to get to many games, but this one was in his neck of the woods so he was able to attend. So did my sister and her family, my cousin, and my brother-in-law. For many, an away game is the sole opportunity to see their beloved team.
Not all Carolina fans are season ticket holders. Not all of them are rich, or have free time to travel. But they all love the team. And they all expect the team to give every game the maximum effort. Fans can tell when a team is not playing hard. They could tell on Monday. And they could tell on Saturday. The price for being loved on the court is to give it your all every game. Too often, this team has failed in its obligation. My 13-year-old niece was literally crying while in attendance at the game on Monday. We love our team, but we expect more.
Lying In Bed, I Am Worried About. . .
The Heels have a problem with scoring streaks and it has cost them in every game they have lost this year. Against Michigan State, it was a 4:14 stretch without a basket and only one free throw. 5:02 scoreless against Wofford stretching from the first half to the second. One basket in a 3:36 stretch against FSU. A 4:03 scoring drought against UVA including 1 point in the final 7:11. Two points in the final 5:21 of the first half against Virginia Tech and 4:22 in the second half with only one three. Nearly two minutes of scoreless play in the final 7 minutes against NC State turned a five point lead into a tie game. Forty minutes of focus is required.
Here is what I am not worried about; the NCAA investigation. That one ended last year.
Truly disgusting is an attempt by any journalist to draw some comparison between Carolina’s academic investigation and the activities of a putrid sex offender at Michigan State. Incredibly, there was a tweet last week doing just that.
At the point that the hundreds of gymnast child victims become click bait for a narrative, then one has lost both journalistic integrity and moral adequacy. If your head is too deep in the sand to understand what is fundamentally wrong with such a message, then the concept of objectivity is lost anyway.
Looking Ahead . . .
Time to regroup. At Clemson on Tuesday for the rematch from a gutty win. Pittsburgh at home on Saturday night.
Consistent scoring will drive victories.
The season may well hang in the balance this week. Wins will drive momentum. Losses will not.