Welcome to the Tar Heel Hangover. This is normally 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. This final Hangover of the season marks the transition into summertime fun and an offseason of high expectations.
The Elevator Speech: What has happened over the last week.
Coach Hubert Davis has hit the ground running. There seems to be a lot of positive energy among the players and program alike. The shock of Coach Williams retirement and the turmoil of the last few weeks is slowly starting to wane. Even as I sat on the beach during Spring Break, every fan who saw my Carolina visor asked, “what do you think of the new coach?” Some, like Curt, like the move. Others are more skeptical.
My answer is, “we’ll see.” Immediate analysis is fun, but the proof will not start to show itself for six months and a more firm answer won’t become clear for years. There is a certain excitement to living a moment as a fan that you know will one day be looked upon with extreme emotion. I remember exactly where I was when Roy Williams was hired. I am sure I will remember exactly where I was when Hubert Davis was hired.
Don’t get me wrong; there is value in a collective positive attitude around the team. But as has been offered to fans in Durham and Lexington multiple times, winning in the offseason does not mean winning in March. College athletics is a result-oriented profession. The mark of a great coach is in both their record and the lives of their players. Without the former, however, there are not very many of the latter. So for the moment, I will stick with “we’ll see.”
Water Cooler Discussion: What a crazy year.
Think about where you were just ten months ago. Carolina fans were thirsty for the return of football and excited that the ACC was going to have a season. Questions were plentiful, but at least we would get to see the Tar Heels play. Following a solid initial year in his return, Coach Mack Brown led an outstanding offense and rapidly improving defense. A couple of questionable losses to Florida State and Virginia marred an otherwise great season that culminated in the team’s first New Year’s game in over two decades.
In many ways, college football is built on consistent winning as opposed to a single great team. Early season rankings are based on both reputation and expectation. Last year was a major step forward for the Heels and positions them to have an outstanding 2021. Even with the loss of so many weapons, especially on offense, there is talent all over the field. For the first time in recent memory, this team will have the depth needed to overcome injuries and persevere through a full campaign.
Basketball fans have already turned their sights to recruiting and Coach Davis has a world of possibilities. Changes to the transfer rule look more like free agency than matriculation, but the effect is that more talented and experienced players will be joining new teams than ever before. Although the Carolina roster is not in immediate need of a complete makeover, thanks to the great work of the staff over the last few weeks, there are certainly holes to fill and available players for every need. Coach Davis has a unique opportunity to immediately put his stamp on this team and produce a winner, but fans should keep in mind that the transfer situation will be both positive and negative (as we have already seen).
There is a lot of cause for optimism but college basketball is a fickle game. If someone would have told me in November that Carolina would finish the year in the middle of a bad ACC and would see the retirement of Coach Williams shortly after, I would have laughed. Six months later, here we are.
Since September, Tar Heel Hangover has been here to nurse the wounds of college sports consumption. Collective hope, frustration, sadness, and exultation have been the hair of the dog we all needed to get back on track. It has been a good ride and I look forward to bringing the piece back in the fall, good Lord willing and the creek don’t rise.
Next week, The Debate will return to suggest a weekend conversation starter and a drink pairing. There are plenty of topics to cover and I welcome any suggestions in the comments.