Totally Worth ItApril 7, 2009 at 5:42 pm | Posted in Basketball, Jackie Manuel | 1 Comment
North Carolina was always the most likely champion in 08-09, yet they were still unlikely to be the 08-09 champions. That may seem like non-sense, but despite all of the talent, experience, and *chemistry*…the odds were that one of the other 346 Division teams would end up on top. Leaving probability theory aside now, I must admit that I seriously questioned this team all season. It annoyed me that some said this team was soft or that they did not play hard. I felt that, instead, many over-estimated this team’s talent and sold short its effort. No matter. Few will ever question this team’s talent or effort any longer.
Now maybe, it WAS a down year in college basketball and perhaps it WAS just coincidence that in each of the last six contests; Carolina’s opponents shot terribly. More likely…there was something to the hypetasticness. Teams knew how lethal this basketball team was on offense when they got going and the pressure was immense. I’m not taking anything away from the defense. Ed Davis made a huge difference. For every shot that he blocked this year, he altered two others and even more important were the shots that teams avoided taking anywhere near him. The willingness to fight through screens against teams like Dook, Gonzaga, and Villanova was very impressive. Danny and Tywon might not ever come anywhere near an all-defensive team, but Green’s sick rejections and Lawson’s thievery kept other teams from getting easy baskets in transition. Tyler, Wayne and Deon are also poor defensive players, but all three were impressive on the boards all tournament long, often limiting very good rebounding teams to one shot.
So…I’m not taking anything from the defense…but what made this team special…and what most likely was responsible for the opposition’s poor shooting…was an absolutely fantastic offense. There was rarely someone on the court that opponents could double off of. There were threats inside and threats outside. Everyone could score in transition and everyone could run the motion offense against a set defense. Everyone could shoot well from the field (cough Bobby) and everyone could shoot well from the line. This team was mad proficient with the ball and the effort teams put into slowing us down surely cost opponents the legs they would need to outscore North Carolina. As Carolina fans, we are truly fortunate, to be able to watch and support players like Danny Green, Wayne Ellington, Tywon Lawson, and Tyler Hansbrough for 3+ years.
Roy Williams also deserves mention here. I’m not sure the expectations his arrival has brought to the program always increases our enjoyment as much as they should. I’m not sure I understand the psychology of expectations, but the Lawson-Hansbrough epoch has an awful lot of critics for a team that was never beaten by a bad team, never failed to advance to at least the Elite 8, only lost 3 non-ACC games overall (Gonzaga, Georgetown, Kansas),won three ACC regular season titles (if they exist), two ACC tournament titles, beat Dook 5 out of 6 times, and won a national championship. Yet, we all read and heard the nitpicks and bitching about a time out here, a end of game play there, Bobby/QT getting minutes in this game, the collapse against a very good Hoyas team, the impotent start against a very good Jayhawks team, etc etc. 101-14 for f*cks sake. Let me type that again with proper spacing:
Maybe, Roy Williams is pretty decent at this coaching thing. Look at where Kentucky and Indiana are before you think that Carolina ‘recruits itself’. The Roy Williams era is quite rad.
I prefer not to get into comparing Carolina basketball teams. Romanticism and cheese admitted, I love every Carolina basketball team and even if I do have favorites, there is no need to pick. This season has been a tough one for me off the court couch. I’ve lost a great deal over the last year and whether it was the brain cancer that took a dear friend (and JMP contributor) or my own mistakes that cost me dearly, real loss has been with me. Carolina basketball has always been one of my passions and while I will not get all ridiculous and write something like ‘this team was there for me, man’….the sense of community and ritual …well….it has been more than just a distraction for me. We are just a bit blessed to be in love with such a fantastic program, no? This was somehow both predictable and unlikely.