Earlier this year, I wrote an article called “6 Reasons You Should Be Fired Up for the 2011-12 Tar Heels.” In the article I basically said that, with the way the Tar Heels were constructed this year, they were not only the best team in the country but were going to win the NCAA tournament.
I may be overreacting, but right now I feel wrong on that assessment.
This Tar Heels team has all the tangible things you want in a basketball team: a great coach, guys that can shoot, rebounders, arguably the best point guard in the country, loads of big game experience and a bench that goes nine deep.
On the surface, you cannot assemble a more perfect college basketball team.
However, we must go deeper to figure out what happened when UNC traveled to Tallahassee and got trounced by the Florida State Seminoles.
This team lacks many of the intangible things that make up a champion: leadership, toughness, a sense of urgency and, especially in the case of the UNC basketball, pride.
Yes, there are many things that attributed to UNC losing to FSU: their first road game since December, 3rd, Deividas Dulkys’ incendiary shooting, a fired up Florida State crowd, John Henson’s struggles from the free-throw line, Kendall Marshall having the worst game of his career, Dick Vitale doing everything in his power to jinx the Tar Heels by referring to Dulkys as “Dukies” and plenty other factors.
However, there is no excuse for losing by 33 points to any team, except maybe the Miami Heat. Anyone who watched the game will tell you there was no fire in anyone that suited up for Carolina, except for Tyler Zeller and the guys in Blue Steel. It actually seemed like there were stretches of time during FSU’s run to start the second half that guys like Harrison Barnes could care less about what was happening on the floor.
Now, let me clarify, I don’t think Barnes doesn’t care about what happened against FSU (15 points, 5 boards, 0 assists, 5 turnovers). In fact, if he wants to live up to his considerable talent, this loss should kick him into high gear. Whether or not he does is all up to the Black Falcon.
When you think of it, Barnes is a great representation of the team as a hole: extremely talented and has the potential to be better than anyone, but can get complacent, coast and next thing you know their struggles lead to something disastrous. It’s not a coincidence that Barnes is averaging 14.6 points and four rebounds on 39 percent shooting in Carolina’s three losses.
So where does Carolina go from here? Right now, the team is at a fork in the road. To one side, they can learn from this. Players like Zeller, Barnes, Henson and Marshall can step up and assume leadership roles, providing the team with a backbone that wasn’t seen against Florida State. They will need to treat this loss like a huge loss and view it as a monumental part of the season.
To the other side, they can continue to do things the way they are now. Try to get by on talent and their high-octane offense, hope nobody goes off like Dulkys did and treat the beatdown FSU put on them as a fluke.
To put it simply, if the North Carolina Tar Heels truly want to win a national championship, it will be the former.