Believe it or not, this team still has some basketball left to play.
To preview this Saturday's game between the Carolina Tar Heels and Boston College Eagles, we welcome Carolina March to the blog for Five Good Minutes. Welcome!
BC Interruption: On a scale of 1 to 100, how disappointed is the Tar Heel fan base in this team and this season? Also, what’s the word on Roy Williams in Chapel Hill? Are the natives getting restless or are they pleading patience?
Carolina March: Is 1 or 100 extremely disappointed? Because that's your answer. It's just been incredibly frustrating to watch, as the team obviously has a lot of talent and just appears to be regressing with every passing week.
As for the natives, there are always going to be a couple of people who will suddenly come to the conclusion that the coach that's won you two national championships lacks any ability to coach, but they're the minority. (And on my blog, mostly Maryland fans.) Everyone else seems to be just waiting for the bad dream to end. If there have been any complaints, it's mostly been directed toward Williams' tetchy behavior, especially regarding the Presbyterian fan.
BCI: There seems to be a disconnect between UNC’s team statistics and their performance to date. The Tar Heels are ranked 1, 2 or 3 in the ACC in the following statistical categories: points per game (3rd), assists per game (2nd), defensive rebounds per game (2nd), offensive rebounds per game (1st) and blocks per game (2nd). Yet the team stands at 3-8 in conference and 14-12 overall. What’s going on here?
CM: We've got to introduce you to the wonderful world of tempo-free statistics. UNC plays a faster game than most of the rest of the conference, squeezing out almost two extra possessions a game than the next nearest ACC team, and seven more than BC. So that's some of it. The rest is that the team's downfall as been recent and almost entirely in conference. Among just conference games, they're 5th in points scored, assists, and blocks. This team was good in December!
CM: They miss Davis quite a bit, but even he had been maddeningly inconsistent this season. Had he not had to play with a broken wrist in the last nine minutes of the Duke game, UNC may have had a win there, but even his presence wasn't going to chance the debacle at Georgia Tech.
John Henson has been the big improvement in the last few weeks as he's played more time in the four position, but he'll shine more on defense and the boards. One of the problems with this team is that it's never clear who his going to step up on any given game. You could see either Strickland or Drew have a big game, especially with BC's pace and turnovers, or it could be Will Graves having a hot shooting night. Or, as in some other games this season, no one could step up.
BCI: In hindsight, the losses of Tyler Hansbrough and Ty Lawson seem to be much greater than originally thought for UNC. Who do you think had a bigger impact on this program? If you could have only one back this season, who would improve this team more?
CM: Overall? Hansbrough. He was the freshman who stepped up the last time a post-championship exodus left the cupboard bare, and his staying four years encouraged others to do the same and resulted in a national championship. This year, however, I'm going to have to bow to the conventional wisdom and say Lawson's point guard skills are what this team misses the most. Either way though, what the team really needs is a player with the combination of leadership and talent that everyone knows to go to in crunch time, so either would it the bill.
BCI: Speaking of last season, do you think that BC’s upset win over North Carolina helped the Heels win a National Title? You can thank us anytime now …
CM: Interestingly enough, Roy Williams opens his biography talking about the losses at BC and Wake. He doesn't draw the conclusion that they were crucial to making the championship team what it was. They were just bad games. So no credit for you guys, I'm afraid.
BCI: Is there truth to the rumor? Has UNC already accepted a bid for the NIT?
CM: Well, I think there's truth to the rumor, it's why I posted it. To find out more would be journalism, however, and that gives me hives. Rumor aside, I think that UNC is NIT bound.
BCI: Last one, prediction time. Who ya got in this one? What’s the final score?
CM: Boston College is the most N.C. State-like team in the league. They slow the tempo down, don't generate many turnovers, and don't rebound particularly strongly. So at the risk of dashing my hopes yet again this season, I think Carolina has this one.
BCI: Thanks for joining us.
For more information on the Carolina Tar Heels, be sure to check out Carolina March.