Welcome to The Debate. This is our weekly post to get the conversation started. for the week. Last week, The Debate took a look at the very early conference start to basketball season with the November tip-off against Notre Dame. Two weeks ago, it was the football schedule in the spotlight. Having bounced back and forth, it is time to confront the elephant in the room. This is a very exciting time with recruiting success for both football and basketball (thank you Akil Guruparan for the excellent regular updates). Both programs are in a time of transformation from a player standpoint.
But first, a special thank you goes out to the women and men of the United States Armed Forces. Without you, there would be no debate. There would be no college sports. Belated happy Memorial Day wishes to all that have served and sacrificed for this great country, and all those who have lost loved ones in the line of duty.
Now, on with the show.
The Debate for the week of May 26: Is this a more exciting off-season for North Carolina football or basketball?
Point: Clearly, this is the dawning of a new football age.
A few weeks ago, Chad Floyd joined The Debate to argue about what success on the football field would look like. That conversation then carried on to the Don’t Punt to Gio podcast. The key theme from that conversation was that there is a very reasonable bar set for a positive year on the gridiron; making a bowl game. A mere .500 record will serve as a quality season and a step in the right direction. With a new coach and an upward trajectory, finding happiness as a North Carolina football fan seems within reach this year.
The truth is that this is the difference between football and basketball at North Carolina.
In the views of many, the last two years have been “disappointments” for the Tar Heels on the hard court. A share of the ACC regular season title and a number 1 seed in the NCAA tournament (not to mention taking two out of three from the Blue Devils) could have been a great year. The blowout loss to Auburn in the Sweet Sixteen, however, was too much to overcome. Two years ago, it was a second round loss to Texas A&M. These early departures followed two straight championship games including a National Championship.
In other words, the bar for basketball has been set very high.
Last summer was a very exciting time for Carolina basketball fans. Staring at a team full of upperclassmen talent and a tremendous incoming recruiting class set the stage for a fun season. And fun it was for the most part. Yet the bitter taste from the last game remains.
Comparable excitement for football, especially at this point, is just easier. Five wins combined in two years is not difficult to surpass. The program needed a change and Mack Brown has certainly provided that in the off-season from a culture and relationships standpoint. There is national attention for a team that has not been good for a while. There is a great recruiting class coming in and an even better one entering their senior year of high school.
Most importantly, there is a very achievable level of expectation that governs the season.
Counterpoint: If fans are not excited about Carolina basketball, then they are not paying attention.
A nearly complete roster turnover is rare for Tar Heel basketball teams. The 2019-2020 season will be different. With only a handful of holdover players including only one returning starter, next season will bring an entirely new look to the Heels.
So why is this a good thing? Why should fans look forward to a follow up from an exciting and high-energy team that could seemingly score at will? Because this year Roy Williams will shine.
The recruiting class is excellent, and potentially underrated. There are two incoming graduate transfers to help fill the experience void. This will be a team full of energy. Sure, there will be times of frustration with so many newcomers to the program, but this is the start of a new era for Carolina basketball. That just does not happen very often.
It’s possible that looking back, fans will realize that there was a Luke Maye era and it is sad to see that draw to a conclusion. Luke’s rise from walk-on to All-American was emblematic of the Roy Williams environment that promotes personal growth. Maye will always be an icon of the school and the game.
Luke’s departure, however, opens the door for a return to inside-out basketball. There is room now for two big post presences on the floor at the same time. There is an opportunity for consistent interior scoring that can ward off offensive droughts. There is a chance for Coach Williams to craft a new team.
Plus, there is Cole Anthony. Coby White’s success as a freshman point guard last year paved the way for tremendous anticipation as to what Anthony can do this year.
Hitting the reset button can be a good thing. Carolina football has done it. The difference is that Carolina basketball is resetting with a chance at a championship.
Time for you to decide! Should fans be basking in the Mack Brown glow of resurrection? Or, is Roy Williams’ reloading effort more exciting?
As always, readers are encouraged to join in through the comments and point out what we got right, what we got wrong, and what we never thought of. Also, please feel free to provide suggestions for future topics so we can cover what interests readers and what information is needed to ensure victory when debating slow-witted friends who don’t read the articles!