In a gym that had a crowd of only 5,072 people you would've figured it would have been a walk in the park for Roy Williams and his No. 9 North Carolina Tar Heels. It was everything but. The Charleston Cougars (8-6) came to play and hung with the Heels throughout the whole game and even into overtime.
An 82-79 win for the Cougars was a giant wake up call for the Tar Heels if nothing else. Roy Williams is beginning to have to coach his teams now without All-American Tyler Hansbrough and Ty Lawson to rely on when the going gets tough.
Williams simply does not have the talented player willing to make plays for him down the stretch. Against elite competition this season the Tar Heels are 1-3, beating only Michigan State. The games versus Texas, Kentucky, and Syracuse are considered to be the big games of the year and UNC is used to coming away with at least a couple wins.
With four losses on the season, things only get harder. They have to play the Georgia Tech, Maryland, Clemson, Florida State, and Duke. All of those teams are tough to beat on the road. With UNC coming into conference play with four losses already, it is not the position Roy Williams or the UNC faithful wanted to be in.
Granted, UNC is not a bad team but they are struggling without Ty Lawson. It has some of the best big men in the country in Deon Thompson and Ed Davis. Even Tyler Zeller is a huge help off the bench.
I am not sold on Larry Drew II because he seems to fade away in the shadows during big games averaging only three points a game in the three games UNC lost to the Top 25.
The amazing thing about the Tar Heels is they have a ton of room to improve and undoubtedly will during conference play. Will Graves has been good for the Tar Heels, but I think Williams needs to get Dexter Strickland a little more time.
Strickland was a high school all-American and has tremendous ability. He is averaging about 16 minutes a game, which in my mind he should be getting about 20. He gives the Heels a little more ability to score and shows promise as a playmaker.
Also, another McDonald's all-American that needs some more time is John Henson. He is only receiving about 11 minutes of time. This is most likely due to the fact that the Tar Heels big men are so talented and deep, but Henson with his long and lanky body gives the Heels someone who can run the floor and brings a change of pace to the offensive and defensive end of the court.
The Tar Heels will open up ACC play with a game against Virginia Tech (12-1), which will show where UNC stands among the ACC. I expect the Heels to come out strong at home and pull off a much-needed win against the Hokies.
UNC is a good team and will be within the top 4-5 seeds come tournament time. It is just a little more difficult this year for a coach who has had the luxury of having two player of the year candidates lead his team to a national title.
Williams has found himself in a spot he hasn't been for nearly three years and that is he has to coach his players. Tyler Hansbrough, Wayne Ellington, and Ty Lawson just to name a few, understood how to play with little coaching needed. Williams is up for the job because he is without a doubt one of the premier coaches in college basketball history.