And so it ends, a season with many hopes and even more injuries, for a team that soon enough will see most of its players end up at the next level, just unsure of when that will be. In the end top seed North Carolina (32-6 ~ 14-2 in the ACC) could not get it done against No. 2 Kansas (31-6 ~ 16-2 in the Big 12), losing by the final of 80 to 67, with the score not being an indicator of how this game truly went. Let’s think about just one small observation: would anyone have believed that without the starting back court in Kendall Marshall and Dexter Strickland, as well as their top sub, Leslie McDonald, with John Henson having had a bad wrist and then a bad ankle and with Harrison Barnes just not being the same he was a year ago, that this team was one point down to Kansas with less than five minutes to play? I would not. For head coach Roy Williams and the whole staff and team this had to been tough to swallow, but there is nothing to be ashamed of.
While the UNC web boards have their melt down threads and twitter begins on the “Roy Williams is not a good coach” rants or the “they all should come back cause they can not play at the next level” discussions I will take this time now to say just two words to the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill basketball program: “thank you”. Yes, thank you for the great season, which gave us yet another ACC Regular Season title. Thank you for the hard time and dedication you put in as student-athletes while the fan base shows up at the games, be it live or in front of a television, and decides how good, or not so good, you are.
To the coaching staff, thank you for having done a fantastic job in recruiting and in coaching them once at Carolina, I doubt many of the other programs can give the resume that head coach Roy Williams and his staff have put up since being back in Chapel Hill. To the seniors, thank you for your four years donning the carolina blue and for all the great memories you brought us while doing so. To the ones that are going to leave early, thank you for having chose to come to UNC and for having given all that you had while here. For those coming back, thank you for coming here and thank you in advance for putting the same hard effort for the years to come as you did in the previous years.
Having said that, as far as the game went Carolina met up with a team that went toe to toe with them on the glass, outrebounding the Tar Heels 40 to 30 overall and 10 to 7 on the offensive glass, while not being able to generate the same type of offensive sets without Marshall in the game. Senior big man Tyler Zeller, who scored a dozen points to go with six boards and four blocks, just could not be himself in a game where the opponents double teamed him for most of the game. Junior John Henson, 10 pts and four rebounds, was on the sideline in the first half getting his ankle taped and just didn’t seem to be his dominating self on defense as usual. For the first one this was his last game donning the carolina blue, it might be for the latter as well, not the way you wanted to see this duo go out, but definitely will be remembered for their work down low all season long. Freshman James McAdoo, who has been growing more and more, showed us once again a preview of what could be in years to come, as he led the Heels in scoring with 15.
In the back court freshman Stilman White did a heck of a job, with seven assists and no turnovers, but what he could not give the team was the spark that Marshall had all season and the points that the sophomore floor general had been generating in the last few weeks. The trio of Harrison Barnes, Reggie Bullock and P.J. Hairston just could not get into the groove in this one, ending up with a combined 21 points off 8 for 25 shooting, 1 for 12 from beyond the arc. In what will go down as a season of “what if’s” the one that will probably be most talked about for the players not hurt is “what if Barnes had played like he did at the end of his first year in Chapel Hill” and for me it might be “what if Hairston had kept his outside shooting going like he had at the beginning of this season”.
So it ends, the previews and recaps for this year’s North Carolina basketball season. For many it ends one or two games early, for me it ends knowing that it was a great year overall and, since I do not judge any program based on one season, this was just another part of the winning tradition that has been built at North Carolina. What does not end here is my coverage of the program, as I will keep up with as much of the happenings of this team as I can with posts right here on this site. And since this was a post about thank you’s as well as other things, let me also thank this site for allowing me to post about the team of my heart, to isportsweb: “thank you!”