Tarheel Hoops: Dream Season?
One can expect a team loaded with freshman and young players to experience rough going early in the season in just about any sport save basketball, where increasingly large numbers of kids enter college with a fat notebook full of press clippings touting their skills. When these high school superstars bother to check into the dorm for a couple of years of fine tuning skills before jumping to the pros, fans expect to see immediate production and flawless displays.
The Tarheel basketball team is as we all know loaded with young stars. After the Gonzaga loss, I got my expectations appropriately lowered. I knew a freshman point guard, Ty Lawson in Carolina’s case, would have troubles. I didn’t know he never learned to play defense. UNC just doesn’t have a point guard who doesn’t play great defense, until this year. Also, Brandan Wright was less than impressive on D. He had to wake up and realize he isn’t guarding those AA opponents anymore. And outside shooting? Wayne Ellington seemed to forget how he scored all those points from outside in high school.
Now the freshmen — and the sophmores — seem to have their sea legs. They staged an impressive comeback against another freshmen star laden team, THE Ohio State University. With any other team, Carolina’s performance would have been good enough to have a substantial lead after the first half. They worked the ball inside, hit a fair amount of mid range shots, rebounded well enough. However, OSU did whatever they wanted to with the ball. Drive to the goal? No problem. Shoot a three? Okay. Shoot from on top of Avery dorm while mixing a shake and eating a bag of Doritos? As John Ward would say, nothing but the bottom of the net.
OSU could do this because UNC didn’t feel like they needed to play defense. Guess they thought winning just meant simply scoring more than the other team, a philosophy I suppose works fine if you can stop the other team from scoring.
The second half showed the potential of this team to dominate their opponents. See what happens when you play defense, guys? They cut the turnovers, shot a better percentage, ran the floor, and hustled on defense. Wright still hasn’t made me swoon the way college recruiters and local sports writers have done for the past five years, but he did score in double digits in the second half after being blanked. Ellington also had a great second half, after only 2 points in the first, he scored 17 to match his prediction abotu scoring 19 points on his 19th birthday. Lawson may not have defended better but he did make better decisions at the point. I think these guys are starting to get the hang of it.
Hansborough was typically stellar. Rayshawn Terry . . . he’s fine as long as he gets to start, when he isn’t starting he gets hung up on proving he deserves to start.
I haven’t seen UCLA play an entire game, so I can’t say how good they are. OSU looked to be the best team in the country during the first half, and the Tarheels beat them decisively. I think our kids are allright. Too bad they wont be in school for more than a couple of years.
On paper the Heels look like ACC champs, and likely will appear in the Final Four. They should, but just about every year we put a team on the floor that could win the whole damn thing. We shall see.