When taking a look at this team in the beginning of the season, I think we all knew that the range of how well they would do in the NCAA Tournament was pretty wide. Key players to two championship game appearances dictated they could three-peat the Final Four, but inexperience in the paint and a questionable bench made UNC feel like they could possibly lose in the first weekend. Well, the latter happened, and it couldn’t have happened in a worse fashion. Oh wait...we didn’t lose to UMBC as a number one seed? Ok, it could’ve been worse.
There’s really no other way to put this: UNC did not show up to the Spectrum Center tonight. It was a performance that, following the Michigan State game earlier in the season, you almost wondered if the same kind of shooting performance would haunt the Heels in the postseason. The good news is it didn’t happen in the ACC Tournament, despite losing to Virginia. The bad news? It happened against a very good Texas A&M team. The Tar Heels couldn’t buy a bucket, trade for a bucket...I’m not even sure that they could even steal a bucket. UNC at one point was shooting as low as 6% from three, and just couldn’t get anything to drop despite getting a lot of open looks. Unsurprisingly, the Aggies had next to no problem in that department, shooting 52% from the field and 42% from three.
While a lot of what happened tonight seemed self-inflicted, it’s important to give Texas A&M their due. They are a very good team that didn’t buckle under the pressure of playing one of the most historic teams in college basketball in what was essentially a home game for UNC. T.J. Starks had a great night, scoring 21 points with 5 assists to go along with it. Tyler Davis was a load to handle down low, and managed to even give Garrison Brooks fits. He finished the night with 18 points off of 7-9 shooting. If I had to guess, this team’s last victory won’t be against the Heels. We’ll see if Michigan has the recipe for success when the teams head out west.
Truthfully, there’s not a lot else to say about this game. Shooting was awful, and the defense wasn’t enough to contain A&M. These nights happen, and you hate to see them happen in the NCAA Tournament when every possession matters more than the last one. Most importantly, I hate to see this happen for Joel Berry II and Theo Pinson.
Theo and Joel are two of the most important Tar Heel players that will have ever set foot on UNC’s campus, along with current NBA player Justin Jackson. They decided to commit to the program during the NCAA investigation, and put all of their faith in Roy Williams and the school in general. What they were rewarded with were two regular season titles, an ACC Tournament Championship, two national championship appearances, and a national championship victory. You couldn’t ask anymore from a group of players, and despite how this ended, they gave us their hearts, souls, tears, and sweat. I’m not one to tell people how to feel, but we should all be extremely thankful to have enjoyed these two gentlemen for the past four years.
While the season is now done, one cannot help but love the team that hit the court this year. No, everything didn’t go right all of the time. In fact, there were a lot of unbearable nights, but there were also a lot of exciting ones. This team exhibited toughness, cohesiveness, and the desire to make Roy Williams proud, and I don’t know that you can ask for much more. Tonight’s loss hurt, but don’t let it take away from how great it is to be a Tar Heel.