Tag Archives: NCAA Tournament

UNC Postseason Hopes: Free Fallin’

December 11th, 2012. UNC’s men’s basketball team is, according to Joe Lunardi of ESPN.com, going to be a 5th seed in the NCAA tournament.

Nearly a month, and a couple losses to the likes of Texas and the UVA “Good God could they please play any faster?” Cavaliers later, the Heels had fallen all the way down to a 10th seed. And this past Tuesday, they fell again to an 11th seed.

All things considered, it was one of the better bits of news regarding UNC basketball in the past few months.

For most of this season now, the specter of yet another NIT appearance has loomed over UNC. So to hear we aren’t a NIT team (yet) is reassuring.

Still, the mere fact that UNC is in danger of missing the NCAA tournament for the second time in four years indicates something is wrong with the program.[1] One bad season in college basketball is, well, just one bad season. But two in four years? That’s a trend, and an alarming one at that.

Of course, UNC could catch fire midway through the ACC season, end up winning the ACC tournament and make it all the way to the Final Four or close,[2] making this entire column seem ridiculous.

At this point, however, I think it’s clear that there’s something broken in this program, and Roy is going to have to make some changes, to his in-game strategy, his recruiting process, or both.[3]

Otherwise, UNC fans are going to be left with nothing to do but ironically chant “NIT! NIT!”[4] for the second time in four years.

[1] The fact that those two times will just so happen to have occurred during my four years as a student here is really just the cherry on top.

[2] Similar to what happened in the 2010-2011 season, although I don’t see any Kendall Marshall caliber players on UNC’s team this year just waiting to take over.

[3] The problem here is that changing strategies has never been a strong suit of Roy’s as a coach.

[4] Not that UNC fans don’t love doing things ironically.

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What Could Have Been

It started in the summer with the news that Leslie MacDonald, a role player from last year and the Tar Heels’ best returning 3-point shooter, would miss the year with a torn ACL. We winced, but knew this was a glancing blow. The Heels were supposed to be a juggernaut, and juggernauts don’t flinch when someone cuts off a finger. We would be fine. Students lined up for (not)Late Night With Roy at 4pm. We eagerly read along as ESPN launched a blog just for UNC on its basketball homepage. We soaked up commentary. Optimism reigned supreme.

The season began with great fanfare, highlighted by UNC’s annual pasting of Michigan State in a new, fancy venue – this time, an aircraft carrier. Even when UNC lost to UNLV and then Kentucky, we knew March was when it really mattered. As ACC play rolled around we started to get a sense of the team: they were nice kids. Off the court they loved hanging out together, communicating on Twitter so we could all feel part of their goofy lifestyle. Henson was the class clown, Barnes the businessman, Watts the elder statesman, with Kendall Marshall at the center of it all. This was, after all, the team that played outdoor pick-up against us mere mortals (sometimes spotting teams 9 points in a game to 11). On the court, they occasionally coasted on talent against inferior opponents. They won, mostly, but sometimes seemed uninspired. The Heels went through a lengthy, multi-game shooting slump where they developed a gritty defensive identity. Things started coming together.

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Unclear Expectations

I had one specific thought that kept coming up in my head while watching the Duke-Virginia Tech game. It wasn’t that I loved watching this team play as my last post stated. It wasn’t that I was extremely disappointed in this team for letting an inferior opponent come into Cameron and nearly win. I kept thinking to myself that I wasn’t that surprised with how this game was going. This Duke team has reached a level I have literally (Rob Lowe reference) never seen before.

I expected the 1999 Duke team to make the Final Four and would have been shocked if they would have lost in one of the first few rounds. I expected the 2007 Duke team to lose early in the tournament, and would have been surprised if they made it even as far as the Elite 8. This Duke team on the other hand could pretty much do anything, and I wouldn’t be surprised. I doubt they will lose in the 1st round, but beyond that anything is else is possible. Lose in the 2nd round to a team like Uconn? I could easily see that. Make it to the Final Four? I can see that happening as well. Has any other Duke team had a greater difference between their ceiling (defeating Kansas, Michigan, UNC, Michigan State) and their floor (NC State, Miami of Florida, Virginia Tech games)?

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The Rivalry Question of the Week

We’re rolling out new features like crazy today. This week’s question is inspired by a comment in yesterday’s Erwin Cup rules post about the possibility of Duke and UNC meeting in the NCAA basketball tournament. I assigned the winner of this hypothetical game 30 points, the most of any potential match-up, because I think life might literally come to a halt on Tobacco Road if it ever happened. So, the question:

Would you want Duke and UNC to meet in the NCAA basketball tournament?

It’s never happened before, which is kind of insane. It’s almost like the sporting gods get together to plan it, start considering the fallout, and decide they don’t want to touch it with a ten foot pole.

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