Welcome to the Tar Heel Hangover. This is our opportunity to review last week’s games, second-guess all of the key moments, and set the game plan for the week ahead.
The Elevator Speech: What happened last week.
A very good game against Louisville in the ACC tournament set up the third contest against Duke for the year. In case the readers forgot, Carolina won the first two in convincing fashion. The Heels outplayed Duke for much of Friday night, but could not pull out the late win with the final possession. It was a heartbreaker but this is no time to dwell. All of the relevant news for the sports world happened on Sunday evening, and that’s where the drama begins.
Water Cooler Discussion: If I were the coach . . .
There is maybe time to have a day or two to celebrate the tremendous season that this team has had. 16-2 in the conference, including a perfect record on the road. 27-6 on the season with one of, if not the most difficult schedules in the country. This has been an exciting team to watch grow and learn to play together.
Friday night was a shame. The lesson, however, is that this Carolina team can play with anyone in the country regardless of what players are on the court. Despite another horrific shooting night against Duke, going less than 15% from three, the Heels had the final possession with a shot for the win. Put me in the category of “not scared” for one more matchup.
Time to move on. There will be plenty of opportunity to reflect on the journey of the season, but this is the day after chance to complain about the bracket. And boy is there a lot to complain about. Here are the three things that are totally wrong from the committee this year.
3. The ACC only got 7 bids. This must be a joke. Clearly the best conference in all of college basketball does not get the most teams in? NC State and Clemson were both in the mid 30’s in the new NET rankings, which is supposed to be a key indicator, and yet teams in the 60’s and 70’s made it in. Arizona State? A third team from the horrible Pac 12 makes it in? Lunacy. Plus, keep in mind that both Clemson and State had to compete with three #1 seeds for the entire season. Arizona State had to compete with Oregon.
2. How does Michigan State win for a third time against Michigan and get a far less favorable draw? Supposedly the Spartans are the number 5 team in the tournament. It appears that those who made the bracket are doing so for the first time in their lives. There is no way that number 5 Michigan State should be paired with overall #1 seed Duke. Meanwhile, Michigan gets the lowest #1 seed Gonzaga. Preposterous. Incidentally, I can also see Duke making some viable complaints. Virginia Tech as their #4 seed? Lookout for the Hokies, who will finally be at full strength.
- Kansas as a #4 seed in the Midwest where, if they advance, they will essentially play at home in the Sweet 16. Against Carolina. What a joke. This is a nasty shot against the Heels and is followed up with a potential rematch against a Kentucky team that defeated Carolina handily in the non-conference. Plus, Kentucky will be closer to home than the top seed in the region. In fact, for those research lovers out there, I would really appreciate someone noting in the comments when a #1 seed was not given their early round preferential location. Of course it is odd for the top three to be so geographically close, but sending Carolina to Columbus instead of Virginia seems downright rude. Good thing the Heels are comfortable on the road.
Looking Forward: A quick peek ahead.
Set your clocks for 9:20pm on Friday night for the first round matchup against the 17-15 MAAC Champion Iona Gaels. Iona averages almost 77 points per game, but more importantly gives up nearly 76. That’s 278th in the country. This is a good early opponent for the high-scoring Heels, who are now 0-5 when they score 73 or fewer points.
A win on Friday night, and Carolina will take on the winner of Utah State and Washington. Both are fairly good defensive teams and both performed well in their conferences. Neither the Pac 12 nor the Mountain West compares to the ACC. Nevertheless, there is no time for an off night at this point when one loss means the end of the year.
There is plenty in the Midwest Region to look ahead to. To get to Kansas City, however, requires two wins in Columbus. The Heels are a very exciting team to watch because of how fast and how together they are capable of playing. They have a fantastic combination of youth and experience.
Now is the moment to survive and advance.