Tuesday, February 2, 2010
What Does This Poor North Carolina Season Really Mean?
If you know me, you know that I'm a huuuuuuuge UNC Tar Heels fan. Always have been and always will be. So to say this next thing out loud is quite stunning:
I'm not that worried about Carolina getting into the NCAA Tournament.
I'm not worried because it ain't happening. I told you before that Carolina won't make the NCAAs. They've dug themselves too big of a hole to get out of and the remaining schedule is filled with landmines. So for me to be on edge about us not getting into the Big Dance is just loco. I guess you can be accepting of things when you are coming off a National Championship and next year will be welcoming in the top prospect of the class in Harrison Barnes.
But what does this disastrous season really mean? Is it cause for concern? I don't think so.
Look, we live in a day and age where schools lose some of their dominance and fall faster than ever before. With all the talent out there, it's tough to have a mediocre season and make it into the tournament. Duke missed the tournament in the mid-1990s ... just a few years removed from back-to-back titles. Florida followed up their consecutive titles with consecutive exclusions from the dance. UConn missed the tournament a few years back. Arizona will see its streak end this year. Kentucky missed out last year. And my beloved North Carolina missed the dance two years last decade -- just two years before winning it all in 2005.
I'm not that concerned with it, to be honest. Next year, the Heels should welcome back pretty much everyone that is on this team aside from Deon Thompson and Marcus Ginyard (hopefully Ed Davis will come back). They'll bring in the aforementioned Barnes as well as the sweet shooting Reggie Bullock and exciting point guard Kendall Marshall.
If you've followed the Heels this season, you'd know that the things that Barnes, Bullock and Marshall bring are exactly what Carolina is lacking this year. Marshall is the steady and smart point guard. I like Larry Drew, but not as the starter. He has more of a Quentin Thomas feel to him where he's better coming off the bench. Bullock brings some much needed perimeter shooting. The only Tar Heel that is "consistent" from deep is Will Graves (more on him later). Bullock will be a Wayne Ellington type who could come in and start right away. And Barnes brings that aggressive talent that this team lacks.
Barnes almost assuredly will be the starting small or power forward. Again, hopefully Davis will be back to place alongside him. Graves has really developed into UNC's go-to guy and could have a huge senior season next year. I think current freshman Dexter Strickland will improve greatly and be a fixture at the two-spot. And I think that Marshall will have every opportunity to supplant Drew as the starting point guard.
So, the starting lineup is Davis, Barnes, Graves, Strickland and Marshall. You have Drew backing up the point, Bullock backing up the shooting guard, John Henson backing up Graves, David and Travis Wear backing up Barnes and Tyler Zeller backing up Davis. I haven't even included Leslie McDonald or Justin Watts. Not too shabby. The only problem is that the team still won't have too much experience.
Of that roster, only Davis had any real experience on the 2009 championship team (Drew and Watts also saw some time). The starting lineup would feature two freshmen and a sophomore. Roles will have to be clearly defined (something Roy Williams has struggled with this year) with Barnes as the centerpiece. Enjoy him for the one year he's here.
What I'm getting at is that we aren't going back to the Coach D'oh years just yet. Sure, missing the tournament is embarrassing and tough to swallow right after a title season. It also pinches us back to reality. We get to remember that it is hard to win championships. We've only won five of them ... and two came in the last five years. We just don't pluck another Tyler Hansbrough from a tree and then wait a couple years for another one.
It is harder than we've been led to believe. But that doesn't mean it is out of our reach.
Brought to you by the Sportz Assassin at 2:31 AM