Welcome to the Tar Heel Hangover. This is our opportunity to review the games of the last week, second-guess all of the key moments, and set the game plan for the week ahead.
The Elevator Speech: What happened last week.
It has been a feast of big games and big moments for the Heels. Friday was the competitive loss to Notre Dame on the gridiron. Monday through Wednesday saw Carolina play basketball in Asheville for the relocated Maui Invitational Tournament. Two wins and a loss later, it is time to reflect a bit.
Water Cooler Discussion: If I were the coach . . .
I am not nearly as upset about the past week as would normally be the case with a couple of losses. The reason for this newfound level of calm is simple; positive development in Chapel Hill. As a coach, I would be optimistic for the future.
Both programs are trending in the right direction. Hosting the second ranked Fighting Irish, Carolina put up a solid fight. Tied at halftime, Notre Dame’s defense came out ready to play in the second frame. The powerful Tar Heel offense that had been trending in the right direction for weeks was finally put in check, managing only 50 total yards in the second half. Five punts and a turnover on downs meant a shutout half and a disappointing ending. There was no fourth quarter rally this time.
Nevertheless, this feels like a step in the right direction. Notre Dame is very good. Carolina did not have the best of afternoons. Yet, the game was competitive right up until the late NOtre Dame touchdown. The defense did enough to make this a respectable showing in national prime time. This was especially impressive given the penalty difference and the need to overcome regular non-called holding by the Irish’s offensive line. Fans can be confident knowing that unusual officiating combined with a sudden schedule change that clinches an ACC Championship game appearance is a mere coincidence for a team testing the waters of conference affiliation.
This was the largest margin of defeat for Mack Brown since his return to Chapel Hill, but the score is not completely indicative of the effort. There is a lot to be excited about for the future of this team.
Similarly, there is positive momentum on the basketball court. Whereas national success still seems to be a year or so away on the football field, the basketball team is showing signs of immediate development. Lots of freshmen with heavy playing time has equated to lots of mistakes so far. Turnovers and poor shooting created deficits early in all three games in Asheville. Yet each time, Carolina kept battling back. Texas made a great play to win the game, but that is certainly not a loss to be despaired about. I loved the fight, the tenacity, and the will to win. This team is growing fast and could soon be a real force to reckon with.
Key stat for the week.
I am going to create a new stat to evaluate this basketball team. Free throws made vs. free throws missed + turnovers. With the size inside and the slashing ability of the freshmen guards, Roy Williams’ team should shoot a lot of free throws. Their ability to convert at the line is a reflection of the overall shooting performance. Reducing turnovers will also be a key for a team that is struggling to score easy baskets. Please suggest a name for this stat in the comments.
Against Texas, the team went 18-32 from the line and committed 14 turnovers. That makes the ratio 18:28 = .64. Seems pretty bad. Shooting 75% from the line with no reduction in turnovers would not only have meant a win, but the ratio would have been positive at 24:22.
Against Stanford in the first half, the team went a mere 2-4 from the free throw line and added 11 turnovers for a horrible ratio of 2:13 = .15 and a halftime deficit. Things turned around in the second half somewhat. More trips to the line helped (13-20) but the turnovers (13) remained an issue. For the game, the team finished at 15:33 = .45. Again, pretty bad but this time it was a close win.
The blowout against UNLV had a 21:27 = .78 ratio. The blowout win against Charleston was 19:14 = 1.36. Perhaps this is a trend for fans to keep an eye on.
Looking Forward: A quick peek ahead.
Carolina hosts Western Carolina at Kenan on Saturday. In this bizarre year, the Heels bring their 6-3 record against the Catamounts’ 0-2. A comfortable win to prepare for Miami would be very nice.
The Men’s Basketball team does not have such an easy slate. Carolina hits the road next week to play the third-ranked Iowa Hawkeyes. Without fans, this will not be a typical non-conference road test for the freshmen (Note to Duke; a non-conference road test is where you play an opponent who is not in your conference on their home court). It will, however, be another opportunity to grow and develop a consistent rotation out of a very deep bench.
Busy days for Tar Heel fans. It is such a luxury to have games to watch and great teams to root for.