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Tar Heel Hangover: Another roller coaster season

The team’s ups and downs continue with March just around the corner.

Northeastern v North Carolina Photo by Grant Halverson/Getty Images

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 has happened over the last week.

The team bus made a trip to Charlottesville on Saturday but someone forgot to pack the offense. While Virginia games are always difficult to watch, this one was particularly painful for Tar Heel fans as a big early deficit turned into an easy Cavalier victory. Maybe it was the off week following Duke. A Miami home game would have been a nice way to build confidence.

Speaking of scheduling, Tuesday’s scheduled game against Virginia Tech (also a home game) was “postponed” as well. Some quick work fortunately brought Northeastern to town for a home game against a solid opponent. Can this group build on the victory?

Water Cooler Discussion: If I were the coach . . .

I just do not know what to think of this team. Looking back over the last month of this weekly article, the titles tell the whole story. Questions. Enjoying college basketball again. Disappointment. Uncertainty. Those seem like perfect descriptors for this largely non-descript team.

The schedule has been crazy and is always shifting. There are no fans in the stands. The players are living (mostly) in a bubble. Last season still lingers as a nightmare for the upperclassmen. The freshmen have not had enough time to develop. These are all excuses for a lack of consistent performance and a total absence of emotion.

The real question becomes who is this team’s leader? Who is the presence that everyone looks to for guidance? Who is the steadying hand that provides the key play and stems the tide of an opponent’s run? Who can be counted on to generate on-court passion, talk a little trash, and get everyone focused? More than anything, I believe this is what is missing.

Garrison Brooks was a rock last year amidst the storm of the season, but he is not generally an emotional player. I had high hopes for Anthony Harris in this role but his return from injury has been slow and uneven. Caleb Love has all the makings of a leader on the court but his generally poor shooting seems to have shaken his confidence. This is a stoic team in need of a spark.

Carolina is full of potential and perhaps that is what fans find most frustrating. Waiting for the breakthrough from good to great game after game is exhausting. While I remain irrationally optimistic for what can be accomplished over the next two months, there must be a fire and sense of enthusiasm on the court. My yelling from the couch at the tv is just not cutting it.

Key stat for the week.

One of the bright spots over the past week is the improved play of Walker Kessler off the bench. Kessler scored a team leading nine points and secured 5 rebounds in just 11 minutes of action against Virginia. Versus the Huskies, he put up 10 points and 7 rebounds in just 12 minutes. This is a very encouraging trend.

Kessler along with fellow freshman Day’Ron Sharpe have been carrying the load off the bench. The rest of the subs only had 15 points against Northeastern and 9 against Virginia. Without a dominant scorer in the starting lineup, consistency for the back-up back court players is key. Someone has to score when Kerwin Walton sits.

Looking Forward: A quick peek ahead.

While not every game is a “must win” for this team that is living on the bubble, Saturday sure feels like it. The game against Boston College has already been postponed so there may only be four regular season games left. Louisville is the best possibility for a good win.

Additionally, three of the last four are at home with the lone scheduled road game at Syracuse. Florida State looks dominating at this point but Carolina will likely be favored in the other three. This stretch of the schedule provides the chance to prove that the offensive disasters at Clemson and Virginia were anomalies. With tournament hopes hanging in the balance, focused and fired-up is the prescription the rest of the way.

Final Thoughts

The season is slipping by as fans hope Ol’ Roy can flip the switch. Its now or never.

Go Heels!