I have listened to and read reaction to North Carolina's embarrassing loss to Florida State on Saturday, all week. Reaction by so-called experts and I use the term loosely. I learned something from these rocket scientists. I learned that Carolina cannot win a Championship after that result. Well fine, let's pull up the carpet and shut down the season because some uninformed media member from the four letter network says the Heels can't win it.
First, let me say, I will not defend that effort on Saturday. I have watched North Carolina play basketball since the late 60's and that may have been the worst performance I have ever seen from a really good North Carolina team. There was no silver lining, there was nothing that could be pointed to as a positive. They did not give the type of effort or execution that is needed to become a Championship team. But, last time I check the National Championship is not played in January and one game in mid season does not equate to performance in March.
A few points for the blowhards who refuse to let the facts get in the way of a good story. First, this is the same group of players as the one who was one basket away from going to the Final Four last season playing against Kentucky, except better. Yes, the addition of P.J. Hairston, James Michael McAdoo and a healthy Reggie Bullock make this a better basketball squad. I am confident this team will play much better going towards March than what we saw in Tallahassee on Saturday. Last years team did not step up the defensive intensity that drove them to the Regional Finals until well into conference play. This team is capable of that type of defense again.
A little history lesson for those in the media who apparently did not take the time to look back. The 1982 Carolina team led by James Worthy, Michael Jordan and Sam Perkins lost to Wake Forest in Carmichael Auditorium that season. That would be the Carmichael Auditorium that North Carolina went 169-20 in the buildings history. In the first round of the NCAA Tournament the Heels faced James Madison in Charlotte, basically a home court. They were extremely lucky to escape that game with a 52-50 victory. That team went on to not only defeat Clyde Drexler and Houston, they won the National Championship against Patrick Ewing and Georgetown.
Carolina lost to Wake Forest in 1993 by 26 points in Winston-Salem. It was just about as ugly as their performance at Florida State. That North Carolina team went on to cut down the nets for Dean Smith, defeating the Fab Five and Michigan behind the play of George Lynch, Eric Montross and Donald Williams.
The Tar Heels lost to Santa Clara by 11 in 2004. That was a Santa Clara team that finished the season a whopping 15-16. Not the best performance I have seen by a Tar Heel team. But that Tar Heel squad led by Raymond Felton, Rashad McCants and Sean May cut down the nets in St. Louis that season defeating Deron Williams and Illinois.
In 2009 North Carolina lost two games in one week during the mid season against Boston College and Wake Forest. That team led by Tyler Hansbrough, Ty Lawson, Wayne Ellington and Danny Green rolled through the NCAA in one of the most lopsided runs in NCAA Tournament history. They defeated Michigan State by 17 points in a Championship Game that was over midway through the first half.
My point is, one game does not make a Championship season and that applies to victories as well. Is this team playing Championship type basketball on January 19? No. Are they playing the kind of defense that wins Championships right now? No. Are they capable? Yes.
On the other hand, this is a different team, a different season. It is up to the players in that locker room to determine how this season plays out. They clearly need to play stronger defense, shoot free throws better and become stronger around the rim. If they play to their capabilities, they are one of a few teams who are capable of cutting down the nets. There are very few weaknesses on this team when they play to their potential. But a team has to grow, bond and find their identity as a season progresses. North Carolina is not there yet but there is no reason why they cannot find that. Typically, Carolina builds momentum as the season plays out, playing their best basketball in March. I see no reason why this team cannot do the same.