First Posted: 1/15/2009
How are they going to play it, the Tar Heels that is?
It’s not a question of whether North Carolina will be good this season. That’s a given. Roy Williams’ teams are always good, and a team returning a starting lineup that includes the national player of the year is bound to be good.
But will UNC play with a chip on its shoulder, the giant-sized boulder the Tar Heels should be carrying around after nearly embarrassing in last year’s Final Four.
I say “nearly embarrassing” because on the first half against eventual national champion Kansas in the national semifinal was a disgraceful display. The second half perhaps made the entire experience all the more painful, for Carolina played like the team that had been, for most of the season, the best team in the country.
UNC should walk onto the court for every game with a huge attitude problem, the kind exhibited by the likes of Florida when it repeated as national champions or UConn when it won the title in 2004. The Gators, tired of folks saying that they had won the title the year before by capturing lightning in a bottle, So Florida took to slapping teams around for much of the following season to recapture the crown.
The 2004 Huskies might be a more appropriate example for North Carolina. UConn coach Jim Calhoun had the best team in the country that year. He knew it. They knew it. They played like it all season.
Does North Carolina know it’s the best team in the country? Does it realize that if it plays to its ability there are few teams, if any this season, can hang with the Tar Heels’ talent?
If they don’t they’ll soon find out. The preseason polls and magazines will tell them the story. The national player of the year. The mercurial point guard leading the lightning quick offense. The smooth-shooting wing who doubles as a deadly marksman. The athletic senior who has only been limited by his own penchant for mistakes. The freshman class containing three McDonalds’ All-Americans.
North Carolina’s cast of characters certainly has the physical talent to beat everyone on its schedule. Last season, however, the Tar Heels didn’t always play up to their talent level. That’s an odd thing to say given that North Carolina lost just three games last season.
But Roy Williams’ team was prone to periods of inconsistency and lackadaisical play. The Heels could be both maddening and delightful in a 10-minute span.
That’s what should change this season. UNC has to put its foot on the throttle from the opening tip of its season debut against Penn in a few weeks and keep it press to the floor.
That’s what great teams do.
Carolina is supposed to be a great team. The Heels will prove it if they are unafraid to exhibit their infinite talent every time they step on the floor.
That’s the only way for them to be sure they make their point.
It’s also the only way to give UNC its best shot at cutting down the nets in Detroit at the end of the season.
Khary K. McGhee is a staff writer at The Robesonian and can be reached at (910) 739-4322, Ext. 118 or by e-mail at [email protected]