It could be a lot worse. It may not feel like that right now for most of us. Saturday night always had the potential to go the way it did. Many of us were worried that Dook might hit their first four 3-pointers, ending the game in two minutes. Of course, we also had hope. Hope is not always reasonable but when you think about how many times North Carolina basketball has rewarded our hope, it is not unreasonable either.
Perhaps unreasonable hope has caused the 09-10’ season to be far more painful than it should have been. After all, what kind of spoiled fan base are we? Are we not still the defending national champions? Did we not just enjoy six years of fast-paced brilliance?Can we only fill up the Dean Dome to see them play FSU on a Tuesday night when we are great? You see and hear these perfectly reasonable questions but the passion many of us have for this program isn’t based on reason. This season has hurt.
I’ve probably been asked what I think is wrong with this team over 100 times. You heard Dick Vitale question our effort and desire on Saturday night. Many have pointed to chemistry issues. Leadership is commonly questioned. People love to challenge our toughness. Just about every individual on the team has been slammed at some point. Even Roy Williams has taken some hits. There has to be something wrong but what if the answer is simpler than these intangibles? What if we just are not very good? I can hear State fan howling already about all of our Mc-talent. The uniform is the same (except when it isn’t…what the f*ck was that about anyways?) so they must be good, right? I like David and Travis Wear just fine. Both should be decent contributors for this program over the next three years. Elite…they are not. I’m not picking on them but if you are going to claim that this is a talented basketball team, please don’t cite the number of players on our roster that McDonalds deemed elite. They put cheese on a fish sandwich for f*cks sake. Ed Davis and John Henson will both play pro basketball one day but both of them are projects without a true position. Neither of them is likely to be an offensive force in the NBA. Tyler Zeller may play at the next level too but only if he can stay healthy for more than 15 consecutive games. After that, I don’t see any one on the roster that is likely to make money playing netball. That might be harsh on the underclassmen and I hope they prove me wrong. Isn’t three enough, Hokie fan crows? Whom exactly has more talent than that? Reasonable questions, for sure. Excuses or not, two of three missed significant time this season and the other was played out of position. Henson often played less than half a game. On the perimeter, John is intriguing but he’s definitely not a NBA level talent out there at this point.
I’m not going to rule out all the other explanations but if I have to answer the ‘what is wrong?’ question, I’ll go with: UNC is not very good at basketball. We are especially not good at the out-scoring the other team part. This is always a key to the game whether the commentators list it the pre-game or not. I think this team plays hard. I think they have heartability. I think they have desire and chemicals and sometimes even leadershipyness. It is too easy to point to those things as the answer and naturally, Roy can’t come just say “Wells shucks, you know, we just are not good.” That won’t do any good.
I don’t think Roy has done a fantastic job with this team but I’ll happily support the kind of mistakes he has made this season. To me, Roy saw an 8-8 ACC season coming from the very beginning of practice. He pushed this team to be better than that and instead things spiraled out of control. The buttons he pushed were all wrong. He kept trying to put someone else in…someone who was very good at basketball in…and that player was not on the bench. Suddenly, this was a team that could not create good shots. This is a team full of players trying to do things they had never done before. Every single player who got minutes was being asked do take a huge step up from last season and most of them were unable to make that step. We see this team at times look like they have never ever played the game of basketball before. The rotation probably should have been set by December. John Henson and Leslie McDonald should have played more than they did. They both make tons of errors but who on this team doesn’t? The Wear twins got way too many minutes. I’m sure this could go on all day but it is easy to see that Roy kept tinkering because he was trying to make this team excellent. That is all he has known and he was not about to stop trying. Unfortunately even Roy Williams, savior of North Carolina basketball, can not turn water into wine. “But he brought in the water” says Dook asshat. Fair enough, I suppose. Pardon me if I give Roy Williams a pass, considering 4 of last years starting 5 are making money playing basketball this season. He signed those guys too. Maybe I’d rather have John Wall than David Wear but maybe I wouldn’t.
I’m going to stop here but my point to all this rambling is simple. Taking a longer view of things helps me see that things could be a whole lot worse. In fact, things are pretty rad. In some ways this is just like any other season. We play a game on a Thursday in March that we must win to keep playing (competitive basketball). If we lose ‘will he stay or go’ questions will begin. Dook will flame out in the first few rounds. Jon Scheyer will cry. Some team will upset Kentucky. It will get warm. Harrison Barnes will show up.
I’m going to smile and try to enjoy whatever we have left of the defending champs. Join me?