If I had just a sentence to recap the UNC Basketball game it would be pretty simple: Do not get out hustled for 30 minutes and then hope to get it all back in the last ten. Because that is exactly what happened as #9 North Carolina (4-1) fell to Butler by the final of 82 to 71. And once again this is one of those games where the final score tells you nothing of the game. Head coach Roy Williams’ team trailed by 17 at the half and by 29 with about ten minutes to go, and when they finally found their stride, the clock became their enemy as well.
“We just dug too big a hole against a very, very good team,” North Carolina coach Roy Williams said.
When you have a talented, but young, team a game, or maybe more, like this is going to happen. And while some of the fan base is already in defcom mode orange, others are balancing themselves on a roof ledge, because of this early season loss, let’s remember something here. This is mid-November, not mid-March. This can be taken as a loss that should not have happened, or it can be used to learn from it.
“They were more physical, more assertive and more aggressive,” Williams said. “They’re really good. Brad’s clubs are really intelligent. I like their toughness and their intelligence more than their talent, and I’m not trying to put down their talent. But I love their toughness and their intelligence.”
So this brings me to another question. The team is talented, if you do not see that then either you are bias against them or do not know much about college basketball. But what is needed to be asked now is… is this team tough enough? Or at least does it have someone that is going to be the one standing up when needed?
From what I read on an ESPN blog the NBA scouts that were at the tournament do not see James McAdoo, who had seven turnovers last night, being the “tough” player that this squad needs right now, making comments such as this one…
“He looks good in a basketball uniform,” one GM told Robbi Pickeral. “But after that, I’m not sure what I’m supposed to like. He’s a pretty good athlete, but he isn’t very skilled and he doesn’t go hard all the time. There’s not one thing he does that really stands out about his game. He certainly hasn’t played like a top-five pick.”
That is a tough criticism for someone that has been mentioned as being among the contenders for the conference’s player of the year. However, last night, he was not the only one that was not “tough enough” on the court. At least for the first thirty minutes of the ball game.
On the flip side of all the criticism out there today, while this was not a good showing by any means, even with the comeback they made, there is one thing that we should think about. Last season’s squad, with four NBA first rounders on it, that had played well over a year together, much later in the season, lost a game to Florida State in much the same way. With the exception that last night’s squad somehow found the will to make a last ditch effort that came out short. Last year that did not happen.
As I wrote in my preview of this game, the Tar Heels needed to forget about the first Bulldogs team they faced and needed to play against the next one. Somehow they did not. They did not show up, they did not play how they were supposed to, and they found themselves losing a game that most probably they should not have.
The key now is that all the players on this team learn from this huge mistake and move on. If this game teaches this squad that they must play each and every game as hard and tough as possible then the loss to Butler won’t be as bad as the score was in the first thirty minutes of the game. If they continue to repeat that mistake then this squad could be in for a much longer season that many had expected.
Personally, while some will say this is bias, I have a feeling that this team is going to learn its lesson. Why? Cause in someway they did that during the game, when down by 29 they found a way to make this a close game and not a shellacking. Having said that, the other piece of the puzzle is going to be who is going to step up and become the leader of this squad? That is something that we will watch as the season progresses. At first I would have thought it would be Dexter Strickland, but right now I am leaning more on P.J. Hairston.
Now, one more game against host Chaminade, for the third place spot, tip off being at 7:30 p.m. EST (televised on ESPN2) and then back to Chapel Hill, where this team will then prepare to square off against the best team in the nation, Indiana, at Assembly Hall come next Tuesday.
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