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.
This week, we are joined by a very special guest. All season, this article featured quotes from My Grumpy Dad, who has provided a pessimistic but insightful outlook on the team and the season. He joined us over the weekend and provided his thoughts on the Heels.
The Elevator Speech: The State of the Team
“They have learned how to play with a small lineup, which makes them competitive with almost anybody they play.”
This is certainly a true statement. The Heels are riding a six-game winning streak including three road games against difficult opponents. Wins at NC State, Louisville, and Syracuse have this team riding a surge of momentum into the final week of the regular season.
“They have also learned to play together, and are playing well in the clutch. That has helped them win games against good competition.”
Syracuse posed a formidable opponent in very unfriendly confines. Tied at 74 with 3:09 remaining, the Heels did not surrender a single point from that moment forward and proved that they are a battle-hardened team that could win in tough circumstances.
“Also, can I buy any of the players a meal?”
Words of Wisdom? A Thought from MGD
Theo Pinson (23 points, 7 assists, 6 rebounds) was the catalyst against Syracuse. Joel Berry II (23 points, 8 rebounds, 5 assists) was the leader at Louisville. Kenny Williams (20 points) was clutch against Duke. Luke Maye (33 points and 17 rebounds) dominated against NC State. So what does this mean?
“It is really promising that someone different goes off against each defensive scheme’s weakness. There is not just one guy that an opponent has to stop. The truth is that it is really all five. Any of the starters can lead the team to victory in any given game. That is a very good thing for the tournament because they have few offensive weaknesses.”
The NCAA tournament is all about matchups. While it is true that a good team always wins, it is not always the “best” team. College basketball is a tournament sport and making a good run requires winning in a number of different ways against different schemes and strategies. This team is turning into a flexible offensive juggernaut that can light up any number of different defenses. The same reason why I question the potential success of a defensive powerhouse like Virginia with limited offensive capabilities is the reason why I am growing in confidence for the boys in light blue.
“To date, I have been very critical of Roy Williams’ defense allowing so many open three point shot attempts. All in all, however, this is clearly one of his best coaching jobs to date while at North Carolina.”
This is quite the statement coming from the person who has frequently threatened to found the website “FireRoy.com”. This year’s version was a guard heavy anomaly that would test the patience of fans and coaches alike. What we have now, however, is a team on a roll that is rebounding at a high clip and looks like it could move deep into the tournament. Amazingly, this success has occurred with the first or second strength of schedule in the country (depending on what service one subscribes to).
Lying In Bed, I Am Worried About. . .
Once again putting his finger on the pulse of all that is right and good.
“And the necessity of getting through Miami.”
Truly a trap game if there ever was one. “In some ways, the Miami game is more important than the Duke game, especially from a conference standings standpoint.” The Senior Night game is the required step in the road to a second place conference finish.
“Duke’s size is still a concern. And their athleticism.” Well we handled both of those already. “It’s also their senior game, or at least their last regular season game in college.” The same is also true for the senior laden Heels.
This is the start of “Hate Week.” What is it that you dislike the most about Duke?
“The rat face.”
Quite good. Anything else?
“The unfair advantage that they gain from their home court.” While it is true that very few college teams play in large high school gyms, I am not sure that this is something that should be held against the Blue Devils. The amount of money that they lose on a regular basis by only crowding 27 paying fans into the bleachers must be mind boggling.
“I hate that they are always able to recruit. Of course that is a compliment, but I still hate it.” This goes to the root of what fans don’t understand about recruiting. Not all of the great recruits who go to Duke ever succeed there. Some transfer. Some are injured. Many leave after one or two NCAA tournament games. They have a pre-season summer of high expectations, a season full of excuses, and an early post-season exit that is short-lived with a look ahead to the next great recruiting class. And yet they still display their full adolescent naiveté and choose to live under the shadow of the rat face. Say cheese.
Looking Ahead . . .
How far can this team go in the NCAA Tournament? Is the roof the ceiling?
“Talent wise, the Elite 8 is reasonable. Given how they are playing, however, the Final Four is possible. They could beat Virginia. Its not really their defense, it is Kyle Guy. Take away his three pointers and they only score 10 points a game.”
What will the ACC tournament hold?
“They certainly have a chance to win but that is all, a chance. With their limited roster size, the double-bye will be very important.”
Who will win the ACC tournament?
“If Carolina doesn’t, it will be Duke.”
What teams besides UNC could win the National Championship?
“The team I have been most impressed by is Michigan State. The next two most reasonable possibilities come out of the ACC.”
Final Thoughts . . .
“Roy Williams has really changed his whole philosophy of the game and has dealt with a very different group of talent this year. He has molded them into a winning team.”
Especially coming off of a National Championship, this has been a fun ride. Let’s win the next two games and start tournament play. A number one seed still awaits.