Welcome to SB Nation FanPulse, a survey of fans across college sports. Each week during the college sports season, we will send out polls to plug in fans to each team. Tar Heel fans can sign up HERE to join FanPulse.
Tomorrow is the big game: UNC will face off against Duke in game one of their annual home-and-home series to see who will earn bragging rights between the two teams until they meet again next year. The greatest rivalry in sports never fails to deliver great games, heated moments, and yes, lots and lots of trash talking. The Tar Heels may be struggling this year, but we’ll likely have to throw out any and all expectations and prepare for one of the best games of the season...hopefully.
Fans of both teams are usually chippy all year long to say the least, and things only get louder the week of the first game. This year, however, has a different feel for obvious reasons. Do Carolina fans have enough confidence in their beloved Tar Heels going into tomorrow’s game? Let’s find out.
As we can see, fan confidence has dropped from 71% to 60% following two disappointing losses against Boston College and Florida State. The Tar Heels have regressed somehow now that Cole Anthony is back in the lineup, and it’s likely due to something I like to call the “Marcus Paige Effect.” When there is such a severe disparity between elite college basketball players and their teammates, sometimes it’s easy to look at the star of the show for all of the answers. It goes without saying that Anthony hasn’t played well himself and is still working off some rust from being out so long, but it also doesn’t help that the team has literally been standing around waiting for him to save them, which also impacts his game in a negative way. Don’t believe me? This may be the best example that was shared on Twitter this week:
And somewhat of an example of this dilemma from the Florida State game— Dadgum Box Scores (@dadgumboxscores) February 5, 2020
Ball stays in Cole's hands, little to no movement
Turns down a ball screen
Makes a three pic.twitter.com/uV40Aa8mdR
Not convinced? How about we have the Hall of Fame coach Roy Williams give his input on the situation. Here’s what he said on his radio show earlier this week:
“Well, I would take exception with what you said there that he doesn’t get in flow with his teammates,” Williams said. “It’s what everybody wants to sniff at and jibber at and they don’t know what the crap they’re talking about. I mean, against Notre Dame in the first game of the season, he didn’t get in flow with his teammates, either. He played basketball. Against Boston College, he played basketball until the last play of the game. But it’s everything. I mean, he hadn’t played in six weeks and then all of a sudden, you know, we get a couple of guys in foul trouble and Jeremiah [Francis] goes down and can’t play. And then all of a sudden I’m playing him 25 minutes in his first game back and he goes 14-for-14 from the foul line and was the defensive player of the game. So, in the Boston College game, getting in sync with his teammates, and I’m not getting on you, but it is what everybody jibbers about. That’s a bunch of BS. He scores 26 points, he’s 14-for-14 from the line and defensive player of the game. Oh yeah, it’s Cole’s fault. Come on, guys. But he took too many bad shots in the Florida State game. And the problem is that they cover him and the other guys aren’t moving well enough that he’s tough enough to go ahead and try to take a shot. And it’d be like, pick five of us here - four people with Lenny [Rosenbluth]. Well, I wouldn’t guard any of you other four. I’d just guard Lenny. Okay? Seriously. But then when we throw Lenny the ball, he’s tough enough that he thinks he can make a shot so he’ll take a shot.
“But we had six plays, and this is a sore spot because it ticks me off. People act like they know what the crap’s going on. Six plays in the game he made the pass and we blew the dunk or we blew the layup. So now all of a sudden - I think he had three assists – so now all of sudden he’s got nine assists. Guys have got to finish plays. When you’re the defensive player of the game and go 14-for-14 from the free throw line, like I said, and he scored 26 points, they better find something else to pick on, except for the last play. I can’t explain it. He can’t, either, the last play of the game, but I thought he was magnificent in that game. And then [FSU] really focused their defense on him. They denied the pass to everybody else, so he’s got to try to beat somebody and then they are long enough that they back off of him and it’s hard for him to go by them. And so, again, he’s trying to take shots. He and I talked about it [Wednesday]. If we run late clock, you can’t take outside shots all of the time.”
I think that should settle that debate, no?
Regardless, UNC as a collective must find a way to have their best game of the season against Duke. The Blue Devils are coming off of an uninspired win over Boston College, as they were not able to pull away from the Eagles until the game was tied with 6:15 left. From there, Duke went on a 7-0 run to pull away and escape Chestnut Hill unscathed. Unfortunately for the Tar Heels, this likely means that Coach K is going to get these guys to rally and prepare to make a statement tomorrow, so I’d expect nothing less than their best shot.
As far as Carolina goes, the biggest questions will be whether or not things can get back on track on the offensive side of the ball, and whether or not there will be enough healthy bodies to go blow-for-blow with Duke. We do know that Brandon Robinson is out for the game, so we just have to hope that everyone else stays safe and healthy between now and then.
What do you think of this week’s FanPulse results? Also, what do you think of UNC’s chances against Duke? Let us know in the comments below, and as always, if you aren’t already signed up for FanPulse scroll to the top of this page and click the link provided to get signed up today!