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Alex Collette

Tar Heel Game Day 2.0

Saturday brought fans back to a familiar place with a not so familiar face, as the first steps of Coach Fedora’s plan to revolutionize the gameday feeling around Kenan.

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Swan Song

And so the curtain draws to a close. As the final seconds ticked off the clock in Kansas City and good ol’ Roy was forced once again to give a congratulatory shake of the hand to his KU replacement, the hardwood Heels took their final bows. But what should we, the audience, make of this year’s production of Tar Heel basketball? For once, it’s hard to tell. In a season as unpredictable as any in recent memory, one thing was certain: if the Heels weren’t knocking down shots, they weren’t winning games. Sunday was no different, as Carolina’s fate was sealed by a horrid 30% shooting mark. And yet, hope burned bright at halftime as the feisty Heels maintained a solid 9-point lead over their more athletic but incredibly sloppy counterparts from Kansas. In what was initially a pleasant surprise, the opposing team didn’t score at a blistering pace. Having witnessed in-person Duke’s torching of the nets in the Heels’ season finale and Miami’s shooting clinic in the ACC tournament final, it was refreshing to see an opponent struggle. But Carolina didn’t capitalize on the Jayhawks sluggish start, failing to jump out to any substantial lead and shooting an appalling 11 for 42 in the first half. When Kansas started to knock down outside shots early in the second half, it spelled doom for the offensively-challenged Heels. With their...

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A First Time (Well, Kinda) For Everything

Surprising? Unfair? Conspiratorial? These words all probably flashed through the minds of Tar Heel fans across the country when it was revealed on Sunday evening that the UNC had earned an 8-seed and a potential second-round matchup with Kansas in this year’s NCAA Tournament. Many felt that UNC had done enough in beating FSU and Maryland and playing Miami evenly for about 36 minutes in the ACC Tournament to warrant at least a 7 and possibly even a 6-seed. Based on RPI, strength of schedule, and record vs. the Top 100 in the RPI, Carolina was better than each of the teams placed one slot higher. Even in advanced per-possession metrics (kenpom.com), which are supposedly now utilized by the tournament selection committee, UNC is rated better than both Notre Dame and Illinois, who both received sevens. None of these statistics even consider the fact that UNC has been a much better team since moving PJ Hairston into the starting lineup. Fans of other schools are probably rolling their eyes at the complaints of Carolina’s supporters given that UNC has traditionally been a powerhouse. Nevertheless, some Heels fans think it a strange coincidence that the Tar Heels are seemingly under-seeded and slated to meet Roy Williams’ former team in Kansas City should they beat Villanova…a realllllly coincidental coincidence that would make for excellent television. But maybe the selection committee was...

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The World Keeps Turning

So this is heartbreak. Not quite a full 24 hours later and that very distinct emptiness that follows any loss at the hands of the Blue Devils still lingers. Maybe I’m being a tad melodramatic, but then again… no, no I’m not. More than simply another tally in the right-hand column, last night’s game represented a shot at redemption for a hungry team and fanbase: a deliverance from evil that just never materialized. The stage was set but the Heels never showed up (which is ironic, since just about everyone else did). Yes, the stars were out in full force Saturday. From our limited vantage point in the back row of the risers my friends and I took part in a rousing game of “name that celebrity” to pass the hours before tip-off. Former Sports Illustrated swimsuit model Brooklyn Decker and her husband, tennis pro Andy Roddick, sat courtside and enjoyed a halftime chat with Minnesota Vikings quarterback Christian Ponder and his better half, ESPN sideline reporter Samantha Steele (or Ponder now I suppose).  Also spotted were country music star Eric Church (who head football coach Larry Fedora seemed to take a real shine to), former Vice-Presidential candidate John Edwards, and former NFL running back/current ESPN analyst Merril Hoge. But enough of the lifestyles of the rich and famous (and in Decker’s case, the incredibly good looking). Though millions...

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Finishing Strong

There are some sports truisms that are undeniably, well, true. Of the many coaching platitudes that I’ve heard over the years, none has stuck out quite like the idea that you must “finish strong.” While applicable to many different games, the phrase has a particular double meaning in the world of college basketball. By using the expression in this context, one could either be referencing the necessity of attacking the hoop and scoring with strength at the rim by going through contact (as opposed to “weak” fadeaways or finesse moves) or be noting the importance of ending the regular season on a high note to provide momentum going into postseason play. Sunday’s game against Florida State marked the continuation of the Heels’ commitment to “finishing strong” in every sense. Before the game even began, students got in on the action, as they endured what may be the longest rendition of “Jump Around” in Smith Center history. Despite cramping calves and a lot of sweating, the fans in the risers pushed through the pain and danced right up until CBS mercifully allowed the game to begin. Perhaps the presence of head football coach Larry Fedora in the risers, donning a blue wig and his trademark visor, was enough to inspire the crowd to keep jumping. The Heels started hot but fell behind by one about midway through the first half...

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Seeing Red

This Saturday morning found me as most have in recent weeks: huddled with my friends in a line outside of the Dean E. Smith center. Congregated under my roommate’s oversized golf umbrella, the half-dozen of us waited beneath a gray Chapel Hill sky and watched as puddles encroached. It was cold and my bed was much too far away for my liking. But everyone present knew that foregone sleep in a dry bed was simply the going rate for a much sought after commodity: revenge. The Heels had an ax to grind on Saturday and certainly played like it, finally bringing a level of intensity worthy of the name on the front of their jerseys. Though it was far from a perfect performance, the boys in blue made further strides along what has been a steady learning curve as of late. Freshman Marcus Paige continued to show improvement at the point, notching 8 assists against 0 turnovers and putting up 14 points. Paige looked comfortable running the show in the game’s closing minutes and once again proved himself to be a valuable asset at the charity stripe, knocking down 4 late free-throws to keep the wolfpack out of striking distance. Of course, Paige’s progression seems to have been expedited by Roy Williams’ decision to go with a smaller lineup. With fewer big men crowding the paint, both Paige and...

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Together We Are Carolina

After getting blown out by 26 against Miami on Sunday, expectations for Wednesday night were low…well, as low as possible for a game against Duke. Rivalry games are special, and no rivalry is more special than Carolina-Duke. The records don’t matter, the rankings don’t matter; nothing really matters except those forty minutes on the court. Each game is the manifestation of generations of mutual hatred, and in our extreme loathing of that school eight miles down the road, we consistently anticipate winning, no matter the odds. But boy, did the odds seem against us on Wednesday. Gathered with roughly ten of my good friends in the back of the Varsity Theater on Franklin Street at about 8:15 PM, I was a bundle of nervous apprehension. It seemed a potential recipe for disaster: A young, inconsistent Carolina team that has struggled on the road going into Cameron Indoor to take on a Blue Devils squad that was ranked either number one or number two, depending on which poll you prefer. The theater grew marginally more crowded as game time drew closer, but the fear of getting destroyed and having a depressing walk home probably kept students from going out on a chilly weekday evening. As tip-off neared, the theater was maybe half-full and fairly quiet, providing a stark contrast to the Cameron Crazies on screen that were screaming and yelling...

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Same Old Song and Dance

So we find ourselves in a familiar position. Another road contest met with another poor performance by the Tar Heels. But is anyone really surprised at this point? On Saturday the Heels proved once again that they have no idea how to compete for a full 40 minutes away from the friendly confines of the Dean E. Smith Center. In eight true road games this season, the team has seemingly sleepwalked its way to an uninspiring 3-5 record. In all fairness, taking down the red-hot Miami Hurricanes in Coral Gables on Saturday afternoon would have been a dubious proposition for just about any team in the country, but losing in such a spectacularly pathetic fashion did little to bolster the confidence of a Carolina fan base that already loves to play the role of Chicken Little. It’s one thing to lose a game to a tough in-conference foe on their home turf, but to continually repeat the same mistakes demonstrates a complete and utter misunderstanding of what it means to play winning basketball. The Heels dropped a close one to the Hurricanes in Chapel Hill roughly a month ago after giving up several uncontested 3s in the game’s closing minutes, which would lead one to think that any gameplan for Saturday would have included an emphasis on defending the drive and kick by Miami’s guards and closing out on...

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#PJBeHurtin

The hashtags started flying like PJ Hairston’s jump shots in Chestnut Hill on Tuesday night. #PJBeShootin #PJBeHittin #PJBeOnFire #PJNeedToBeStartin Hairston was finally blossoming into the player Roy Williams called “the best shooter he has ever recruited” in the first half against Boston College, and seemingly every UNC student with a Twitter was taking notice. Igniting the team with fourteen points in just twelve minutes of action, Hairston was making a strong case to replace Dexter Strickland in the starting lineup at shooting guard as an offensive catalyst. Then, disaster struck. It was an incredibly odd scene to watch unfold. At UNC, we consider the basketball players to be demigods. They are stronger, faster, and more athletic than is seemingly imaginable. To steal a line from Austin Powers, women want to be with them, and men want to be them. Seeing one of these superheroes hurt so badly, unable to walk without support, was jarring. If you aren’t reminded every once in awhile, you can sometimes forget that basketball players are human, too. That reality, that athletes are also vulnerable, was all too apparent on Tuesday. Tasteless jokes that Strickland hit PJ on purpose to save his job aside, the outpouring of support for Hairston was tremendous. Everyone quickly grasped the severity of the injury and the implications for the team. Without Hairston, our bench is reduced to Leslie McDonald...

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A Healthy State of Hate in the Triangle

So it finally happened. For the first time since February of 2007, NC State managed to hand us an L. And while there is some solace to be found in the fact that I haven’t had to witness a loss to State since I was a freshman in high school, Saturday night’s game was still a hard pill to swallow. Following the buzzer, I acted against my better judgment and decided to brave the hornet’s nest that is my Twitter feed after a Carolina loss. As could be expected, there were more than a few heated arguments taking place...

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