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 distance shooters. If this was the case, all lessons were forgotten by tipoff as Carolina allowed “the U” to tie a school record with 15 made baskets from three-point land.
Looking on as the Hurricanes’ Shane Larkin lobbed a pass up off the backboard for teammate Kenny Kadji to slam home in transition (ensuring that we would once again be on SportsCenter for all the wrong reasons), I wondered what lesson Coach Roy would try to teach in the wake of an on-court implosion of this magnitude. If I were in his shoes, I would say one thing: shake it off.
Forget about it. That’s the advice I would give our players heading into Wednesday’s clash with Duke. Why? Because there is nothing to be gained from their experience in Coral Gables. Some might say to learn from mistakes, but the way I see it there was no takeaway from Saturday’s collapse. We got outplayed in just about every facet of the game and Miami was simply the better team. No major improvements can be forged in three days’ time, so we’d be best suited to forget the past and worry about the immediate future. The quicker our guys can erase that 26 point drubbing from their collective memory, the better.
For much of this year, I’ve found myself serving as an apologist for this team. In conversation I’ve always argued in defense of the players, citing youth and inexperience as excuses for poor performance. At some point, though, this team has to grow up. At some point, they have to play Carolina basketball. In a few days they will be given the perfect opportunity to do just that.
If I were a realist, I’d accept the fact that Wednesday night will more than likely find me repeatedly pounding my fist on my coffee table in exasperation and hurling obscenities at my television set. I’d guess that the dookies will have no problem lighting it up from outside and the Heels will allow a slow start on offense to stifle any chance at an upset in Cameron. Luckily, though, I’m not a realist.
No, I’m just a fan with a hope and a motto: Go to Hell Duke!