Is North Carolina Overrated? From No. 1 in the Country to Last in the ACC

Bleacher ReportCorrespondent IJanuary 12, 2009

UNC went into Winston-Salem looking to bounce back from their ACC-opening loss to BC.

They left licking their wounds after Jeff Teague and Wake Forest picked up their program's biggest win since the days of Chris Paul.

Not to take anything away from Wake or how impressive they were tonight, but the whole time I was watching this game, I couldn't help but think about how bad UNC looked.

Outside of Danny Green (and maybe Ed Davis), did any of the Heels play well?

Tyler Hansbrough was a total non-factor in the second half.

Ty Lawson turned the ball over and took dumb shots all game.

Wayne Ellington couldn't buy a jump shot until the very end.

Deon Thompson was 3-for-13 from the floor.

In fact, other than Danny Green (who was 6-for-9), the other four Tar Heel starters shot 14-for-50 on the night.

Despite all of that, UNC only lost this game by three.

That, however, is not the point. This is UNC's second-straight loss to open the ACC season.

That begs the question: are the Heels as good as they are supposed to be?

If you read this blog, then you know how I feel about them. I have said on multiple occasions that they may be the best college team I've ever seen put together.

But in their first two ACC outings, the Heel's flaws have been painfully exposed.

For starters, they play absolutely no defense, especially on the perimeter. Jeff Teague of Wake Forest and Tyrese Rice from BC did basically whatever they wanted to against the Heels. Teague went for 34 points, 6 boards, and 4 assists while Rice went for 25 points, 5 boards, and 8 dimes.

The Heels are also a much different team if you can force them to play in the half court. They are very good in their secondary break, where their offense functions based on reading how the defense is aligned, who is the hot hand, who has a mismatch, etc. When they have to execute a set play against a set defense, they are much less effective.

The biggest issue might have been UNC's shot selection. I understand that the UNC system is to push the ball and to look for quick shots, but you also want them to be good shots.

I love Lawson, but when he takes step-back threes with 25 seconds left on the shot clock, it is nowhere in the vicinity of a good shot.

Perhaps the worst shot of the game was taken by Hansbrough.

UNC had trimmed an eight point lead down to four thanks to two Ellington threes, and the Heels had just gotten a stop. The ball ended up in Hansbrough's hands at the top of the key. He pump faked, took one dribble to his left, then took a step back and shot a contested three.

He missed badly - way short - but followed his shot. When he did that, it ruined UNC's defensive balance, and Chas McFarland took the ball in for a wide open lay-up. Wake went up six, and the game was all but over.

I've mentioned this before, but one of my biggest concerns about UNC going into the season was that the players were going to be thinking about the NBA Draft. Instead of truly playing within the UNC system, I was afraid that Green, Lawson, Ellington, and Hansbrough would instead spend the year trying to impress NBA scouts that come to the games.

The fact of the matter is that all four of those guys had a chance to enter the NBA Draft. Hansbrough didn't test the waters, but as for the other three guys, they wanted to head to the league.

For some reason, Green (injuries), Lawson (arrest), and Ellington (poor showing) had to withdraw their names because they weren't going to be first-rounders.

Throw Ginyard (when he gets healthy) and Deon Thompson in there, and you have six guys that are trying to prove they belong in the league.

The reason everyone was so high on UNC this year is that they brought back essentially their entire team that was a No. 1 seed last year and reached the Final Four, adding three Mickey D's All-Americans to the mix.

My question: Are the UNC guys really that good? The NBA pours over and studies every detail about a players personal and athletic life before the draft, but the bottom line is that there really isn't anything that can keep a player from being taken if he has the talent.

There is always a GM that will be willing to take the risk if the guy is good enough. The rumor on draft night this year was that Darrell Arthur was destined for kidney failure, but he still managed to be a first-round pick.

All three of the Heels that came back had problems of their own, but none of them were highly regarded enough to be a considered a lock for a first-round pick.

While it is obviously a good thing for the Heels to get those guys returning to campus, it's not exactly Worthy, Perkins, and Jordan in their primes coming back to suit up.

Have the Heels been overrated? Clearly.

After all the undefeated talk earlier in the year, they went out and started 0-2 in conference play.

That doesn't change the fact that UNC is one of the favorites to win the ACC and a clear Final Four contender.

They just aren't as good as everyone thought they would be.


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