As the season begun this year, North Carolina was ranked in the top ten once again. We have been getting used to their dominance year after year. So, when they were ranked #4 in the preseason polls, we were led to think this was going to be another superb team. And, they supported that assumption when they took down Ohio State in their first test of the year.
But, things started to go downhill in a slow process.
Their second test of the year came against Syracuse early in the year. Syracuse was able to take control early, and they never let up. They dominated from beginning to end, and won by 16 once it was over.
This was just the start to a devastating season that has left Tar Heel fans completely baffled. They knew that inexperience was going to be a weakness for this team, but they did not realize it would have this big of an impact.
They continued to be competitive in their non-conference games, winning games they had to and sticking around with other top-notch teams. But, things were not the same once conference play started up.
They ended up going 5-11 in conference play which left them with an unappealing record of 16-15. Then came the ACC Tournament, but they stumbled in the first round losing 62-58 against Georgia Tech. Once the regular season was done, they finished with a combined record of 16-16.
This was something that the North Carolina faithful were not anticipating. They thought they were going to have an amazing year, but injuries such as Tyler Zeller’s killed the team. They were never able to ‘click’ with each other, and struggled enormously with shooting and taking care of the ball.
They realized that they had no chance of making the NCAA Tournament, but the NIT was a possibility. When they found out they were a 4 seed, they were thankful for it, so they could try and get into a groove and end their year on a good note.
So far, they have taken advantage of the situation. I knew they could be a ‘sleeper’ team in the NIT, and they have done exactly that so far.
They were able to take down an impressive William & Mary team in the first round. Then, they followed that up with a nail-biting victory against the top seeded Mississippi State Bulldogs. To top these two wins off, they downed the 2 seeded UAB Blazers last night 60-55.
They are starting to learn how to play as a team, and use their extraordinary talents to help the team. That’s why they are finally starting to win some games, and may have a chance at winning the NIT.
This team may not be what we were expecting, but we are finally starting to see signs of the franchise that has dominated college basketball the last decade. There is no doubt that the Tar Hells will once again be one of the premiere programs in the future, because if you combine this years team with the future prospects they have coming in, you can see that lack of talent is nothing for them to worry about.
So, North Carolina fans: There is no need to worry. Enjoy the team that you have this year, and cheer them on as they try to bring home a NIT title for you, and be excited for the years you have ahead.