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UNC Basketball: Consequences

Right, wrong, indifferent. At the end of the day, Carolina did not play Miami, and it can still get worse.

Notre Dame v North Carolina Photo by Jared C. Tilton/Getty Images

I saw the video clip yesterday and was struck by a feeling of dread. “This isn’t going to end well,” I thought as I headed to work. I did not realize how quickly events would come to a head as Miami and UNC mutually agreed to postpone yesterday’s game two hours before tip-off.

This has been a hard year for all of us. Hard by any metric. The pandemic has incurred a heavy toll on lives, health, the economy, schools, sports, and society. That is not lost on me. I am not angry at Armando Bacot and Day’Ron Sharpe. By all accounts, they are good young men with big hearts and bright futures. Roy Williams would not have brought them to Chapel Hill if they were bad.

Armando and Day’Ron did make a bad decision. What exactly that decision was has some ambiguity, but seen in the cold light of day, they would be the first to admit that they were not doing what Roy would have told them was acceptable during their free time away from the team and their bubble. There will be consequences from this. We may know what they are if Roy elaborates during a press conference, or it could be a mystery that we’ll never know about. But there will be consequences.

One of the hardest things to come to grips with when dealing with COVID-19 is that the consequences can’t be seen right away. If you were covered in gasoline and set on fire, then jumped on a person standing near you, they would immediately catch on fire too. With COVID, you may not know you had it and passed it along to a lot of people before you could even accurately test to know you had it. Add the complexity of non-standard reactions to the virus (some feel nothing, some get mildly sick, some can barely get out of bed, some get put on a respirator and die) makes it harder to determine what the consequences of your behavior were. Some people never know what damage they cause.

There are numerous factors in how Bacot and Sharpe’s decision making could wind up affecting the team, so for now, I just want to lay out some facts:

  • A home game against Miami, a team that is 3-10 in ACC play and 1-5 on the road, is postponed and will likely not be played this season (UNC’s open date was already filled by Notre Dame, when Syracuse had to postpone their trip to Carolina for COVID).
  • Miami’s team traveled from Florida to North Carolina with a 71-year-old coach, incurring all of the risks that accompany air travel, only to not play a game.
  • Roy Williams is 70 years old. It would be impolite to list Wanda’s age, so I’ll say she’s close to her husband.
  • If either player tests positive for COVID-19, there is a chance that, depending on who gets identified through contact tracing, Carolina could head to Charlottesville underhanded, or have to postpone another game. This would likely never be rescheduled.
  • Assuming no additional postponements, UNC has four home games and three road games remaining. The Tar Heels are undefeated (6-0) at home, and in ACC-play they are a woeful 1-4 on the road. Missing that Miami game is killer.

Those are facts. Here are some other things to think about, besides risking infection and breaking team rules:

  • Joe Lunardi has Carolina on the bubble as one of his “Last Four Byes.” The Heels are dancing on a razor’s edge and needed all the help they could get, say from an undermanned Hurricane team in the Dean Dome.
  • Caleb Love had his breakout moment against Duke and looked confident against fellow 5-star recruit Jeremy Roach. Going up against Isaiah Wong could have buoyed Love’s confidence even more heading into a touch match-up with Kihei Clark on Saturday. Caleb’s Cameron-momentum is at risk.
  • Garrison Brooks has one less game to play in a Tar Heel uniform.
  • My parents live in Georgia and I live in Hawaii. I haven’t seen them in over a year. I’ve tried writing this sentence a couple of times, but it starts to get dusty in the room when I do, so I’m just going to share The Athletic’s Brendan Marks’ tweet instead:

We ask our players to do so much so that we can be entertained. They are being robbed of an experience they’ve probably dreamed of for many years. I can say with a small bit of nostalgic remorse that this time period in a young man’s life in Chapel Hill is the best time he’ll ever have, and I wasn’t even on the basketball team! The social bonds and experiences offered at Carolina are unparalleled, But for now they are a dream. A fantasy.

What the players currently have to look forward to instead is working in a cold, cramped tank factory in Stalingrad, and the German Sixth Army is at the banks of the Volga River.

The players work out, practice, eat, take class remotely, and study isolated from the student body. It is winter. They’re away from family and friends. It’s not fair to them. It’s not fair to anyone. But the rules for playing a season are set. And when they’re broken, there will be consequences.