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Tar Heel Hangover: Reflection

NCAA Basketball: North Carolina at Syracuse Mark Konezny-USA TODAY Sports

Welcome to the Tar Heel Hangover. Normally, 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. Last week, however, was spent in isolation. This week will be the same.

CBS is not immune from the incredible change in circumstances that is the world today. Instead of televising the 2020 NCAA Tournament, the network has been airing reruns of past championships. A couple of these caught my eye over the weekend and are worth providing comparisons to the year just completed.

1982 NCAA Championship: UNC vs. Georgetown

Looking back, the amount of talent on the floor for this game was simply incredible. Carolina started James Worthy (junior), Sam Perkins ( sophomore) and Michael Jordan (freshman) against an uber-talented Hoya team led by freshman Patrick Ewing. This could have been a NBA All-Star game but instead was the college National Championship.

Watching the game over the weekend, there were a number of factors that stood out. First, with no three point line, the game was a perimeter passing affair designed to find holes and get the ball inside. Worthy finished with 28 points and regularly converted in the paint. On the other side, Ewing was an intimidating inside presence. In fact, about 10 minutes of game time elapsed before Carolina actually made a basket although five Ewing goaltends kept the game close.

The paint game was a battle throughout but the real differential occurred in the mid-range. Without a shot clock, Carolina’s offensive patience really sparkled. Georgetown repeatedly packed the paint and yet the Heels kept working side to side until Worthy finally flashed open in the paint.

Imagine playing Syracuse today with no three point line and the defense standing almost entirely in the paint. Now imagine a much more talented Syracuse team. That’s what Carolina faced in 1982.

The defending National Champion Tar Heels lost Worthy to the NBA but brought in freshman Brad Daugherty. What seemed like a dominating team lost the first two games of the year in the fall of 1982.

2016 NCAA Championship: UNC vs. Villanova

Yes, I found the strength to watch this. Yes, I sent the kids upstairs first. Yes, I still apologized for my language.

Upon further review, this still stands as the worst officiated half of college basketball ever witnessed by human eyes. Now, there have been a lot of poorly officiated halves. This year alone, the Heels saw one atrocious call after another determine the outcomes of games. The entire second half was pathetic, but the last 2:20 really take the cake. Touch foul on Carolina, no call on Villanova body contact on the drive, foul on Carolina (the one good call), no call on Wildcat body contact on the drive. Then the walk, walk, walk, how can you call a foul on Hicks with less than a minute left? Not content to let the game play out, the officials inexplicably decided that they should take control of the action. The dramatic ending covered what was an abysmal effort by the zebras. Nope, I’m clearly not over it yet.

Bryce Johnson, who had been dominant throughout the tournament, finished with 14 points and 8 rebounds. Villanova did a great job of limiting both his and Kennedy Meeks’ (4 points, 7 rebounds) production despite Carolina having a notable size advantage. The Heels shot an unreal percentage from three (65% on the game) but in the end the difference was the four more free throws that the smaller Villanova team who sought to avoid contact shot and made.

Redemption was sweet a year later.

Lessons learned.

Watching these two games were really eye opening over the weekend. Despite my late season optimism about the Heels’ chances to stage an epic ACC Tournament run, the truth is that this was just not a talented team. Roy Williams was right. Sure, there were moments of cohesiveness and opportunity, but on the whole this team did not stack up against Tar Heel teams of the past.

This was a wake up call. The Tar Heels of 2019-2020 would have certainly been “in” the tournament if they would have not have suffered catastrophic injures all season long. They would not, however, have been championship contenders. Garrison Brooks was incredible all year long. Cole Anthony was very good. The rest of the starters did not match up to the caliber of past Carolina contenders on a consistent basis.

One last note for potential future consideration; Carolina is at its best with great wing players. Point guards under Roy Williams are critically important. The Heels always play inside first. But championships are won from the wings. Query if this will improve next year.

Final Thoughts

Sometimes, the reruns of historical greatness are necessary for a little reality check. As much as any fan can get caught up in the hype of the year, the off-season is a time to reflect.

Wash your hands. Do no touch your face.

Go Heels.