Prior to the announcement that Carolina was going to decline an invitation to the NIT, there was a lot of passion that was being bounced around about whether or not they should even go. It was out there enough that it warranted a pro/con post about it, and judging by the comments folks needed to have their voices heard about this.
There seem to be two schools of thought that have emerged:
- It’s an absolute embarrassment that the Tar Heels would even refuse to compete again. You are not above the ability to play in an event that you are invited to, and if you are embarrassed about playing then you should just sit and let the players who want to play get out on the court. It speaks to just how weak these players are, and Dean Smith would have NEVER allowed this.
- This season should just be dead. Light it on fire, put it behind us, and just let it go. Why bother with further embarrassment and the mistakes being brought up game after game that’ll prolong the agony? On top of that this squad clearly wouldn’t be into it, so they just open themselves up to being beating by a squad that actually cares about the NIT, which would just add to their embarrassment.
Once the announcement was made both sides made their feelings known. Podcasts were put out, Twitter was sent in a rage, and people used about as heated as language as possible to let their feelings be known about how happy or upset they were by the decision.
Here's the thing: I’m not going to argue which one of you is right.
For those who care, this writer feels glad that the Tar Heels acknowledged the obvious that the goal was to win the NCAA Tournament and that once they weren’t going to make that tournament it really was silly to pretend like they were going to play well for the NIT. It feels like there’s a lot of stuff under the surface with this team, and no amount of additional games with this particular crew would have helped.
The thing is, and this is going to be odd to say in a medium where hot takes are allowed, I completely understand the frustration from folks who think this is a bad look and wanted them to play. I do, and if you agree with me that this season should be done, you should be willing to acknowledge that a significant portion of the fan base feels this way. They aren’t wrong, they just feel differently than you. We’re not far removed from a season where Roy Williams told the team straight to their face that if they get the chance to compete, they are going to compete, and to see a coach who swears by that compete mentality just take a season is a jolt. It’s tough to see, but so was this entire season where you likely weren’t very happy with the job Hubert Davis did.
Those of you who disagree with me? Can you at least understand that there is a portion of the fan base that sees what college basketball has become, and that after sitting through this painful season where time and time again this squad just couldn't get over the hump that we’d rather just let it go? It isn’t 2003 or 2010, in that a young squad of guys who’ve gotten a ton of playing time could use the extra reps together to build for next year. Even players who hadn’t played a lot wouldn’t look great together simply because they hadn’t done so, and all it would likely lead to is one or two games where the result was going to end in an embarrassing loss. The best case scenario is one where they are celebrating a tournament win that no one wanted to be in. Why put themselves and the fans through that?
It’s just been fascinating to hear how divergent both sides of this have been. It doesn’t even really break down by age, as Tar Heel Blog alumni Doc Kennedy and Chad Floyd came out on the sides opposite of where you’d think they are based on age. Each of them don’t mince words in how they feel, and the thread from Doc just shows the back and forth being had about it.
It does lead one to wonder if the emotion here is just how each individual person is processing the failure of this season. It almost breaks down into a “there’s no hope” and a “I want to have their noses rubbed in it” type. Neither of those feelings are wrong, by the way. It’s natural to just see a hopeless cause and come to a conclusion that there is no rational reason to move forward, just as it’s natural to feel the pain of a team that made mistake after mistake and want them to, seemingly, feel the pain you felt in watching them.
What I will say is something that few have actually said: we aren’t in the locker room. We don’t know just how hurt this team actually was as the season ended, and we also don’t know about the conversations that were had after the final horn against Virginia. Armando Bacot may have given us a glimpse after the Wake Forest game, but ultimately those players are the ones who have the power to make that decision and fully understand the ramifications. Was Hubert willing to take the bullet on this so the players who would have sat out didn’t have to take more criticism? We’ll never really know.
I also understand the idea that to those who are sensitive to the arrogance that UNC can project when they say that they are above playing in any other tournament besides the NCAA. It wasn’t too bad for the likes of Dean Smith and Roy Williams. Even Matt Doherty understood the benefit of continuing playing as Rome was burning around him in 2003, so why does Hubert Davis not think the same way? Part of the way of teaching these players about overcoming obstacles in life is going to play even when you don’t want to. This does seem to send the opposite message.
We also, as fans, have to assimilate the idea that the world is different in 2023 than it was in 2003 and 2010. Players hear everything from fans these days, whereas in those prior years they had to actively seek it out. We don’t know how all of that affected them, but it’s also something they understood came with putting on the jersey. It’s another factor we aren’t used to having to factor in, and that likely is a big reason why the opinion on this has been so passionately split.
Either way, the season is now done, and hopefully declining the invitation will get the process of rebuilding started quicker. With the Transfer Portal opening today, Davis will at least have the benefit of time over his Triangle counterparts to go ahead and start the process of filling out his 23-24 roster. Decisions can be made quicker, and one would think we will know soon who will be back and who will try to play basketball elsewhere.
Process this however you need to. Your feelings are valid, and as are mine. Just remember the actual humans behind the decisions.