It’s difficult to talk about a loss in an encouraging way without coming across as trying to soften the blow. That being said, North Carolina’s loss to Virginia in the ACC Tournament championship game was one where it was difficult to hang your head too much about the result.
Virginia is the number one team in the country for a reason. Their defense is stiffling and their offense is frustratingly efficient. Great teams run into that and have problems. Yes, Virginia was able to control the entire game against the Tar Heels, but Carolina hung right there with them for most of the game. That should be something to feel good about heading into the NCAA Tournament.
Luke Maye had a very good night, scoring 20 points and pulling down seven rebounds. Joel Berry II was right behind him with 17 points that came on big shot after big shot. If clutch is real, Berry is it. Although Theo Pinson had a rough night offensively, he did all of the little things we’ve come to expect Theo to do elsewhere on the floor.
One point of concern going forward will be the health of Cameron Johnson. He injured himself in the tournament game against Miami and has fought to play through it since then. He fell and landed hard in tonight’s game against Virginia and ultimately didn’t return. Maybe that’s because the writing was on the wall to Roy Williams, or maybe it’s a sign of something worse than we thought. Either way, this team needs Cam. Hopefully he can rest up and get right before the team’s first game of the tournament. After four games in four days, everyone could use the rest.
If you believed that Carolina might be able to edge themselves onto the #1 seed line with a win tonight, it’s understandable that it would be a disappointing result. Whether or not that was ever really, truly a thing is debateable. Most likely, the Tar Heels end up as a #2 seed that starts their tournament journey down in Charlotte in front of a Tar Heel-friendly crowd.
The team is still playing their best basketball of the season. They still look like they are rounding into shape at just the right time. Carolina still finds a way to be tough as nails game after game, making them nearly impossible to count out of any contest. All of that bodes well for a title defense that begins now.
Virginia is a good team, regardless of personal feelings about how they play basketball. People who know a lot say they are the best college basketball team in the country right now. If that’s true, and I’m in no place to deny it, our Tar Heels hung right there with them the whole game.
Bring on the field.