Feb 13, 2013, 11:40 PM EDT
North Carolina fans aren’t accustomed to seeing their team rack up moral victories, and rightfully so. When you’re one of the nation’s most storied basketball programs, a team that has sent countless players to the NBA and has won two of the last seven national titles, looking for the bright side of a loss isn’t normal.
But this year’s version of the Tar Heels is not a normal North Carolina team.
They’re young. They’re still learning how to play. They don’t have stars in the spots where you normally expect North Carolina to have stars.
And thus, after watching the Tar Heels waste a double-digit first half lead against arch-nemesis Duke on the road, losing 73-68, I’m not walking away thinking that life in Chapel Hill is over.
The last time we saw North Carolina play, they were getting dominated by No. 3 Miami in Miami. The Hurricanes jumped out to an early lead, hitting 15 threes and throwing alley-oops off the back board en route to an 87-61 win in front of LeBron James and Dwyane Wade. It was, pure and simple, an embarrassment.
In fact, if the Tar Heels didn’t miss six straight free throws in the second half, this would have been a very different basketball game.
For what feels like the first time since they hosted UNLV back in December, North Carolina was active and aggressive on defense. They jumped out to a 28-18 lead on the Blue Devils not simply because of a hot shooting start, but because they played as tough a brand of basketball as we’ve seen this season. They forced turnovers, they got a hand in the face of shooters and they forced Mason Plumlee to catch the ball 16 feet away from the basket. They took the Blue Devils out of any rhythm on the offensive end of the floor.
It didn’t last, as Plumlee and Quinn Cook both combined for 18 points while Tyler Thornton’s hot-hand in the second half sparked the game-changing surge.
But then again, not many people even expected North Carolina to keep the game this close. Be honest: did you really think that the Heels would have a chance to win at Cameron Indoor Stadium before this game began?
There is some talent on the UNC roster. There aren’t a lot of great teams in the country this season. With the ACC in the midst of a down-season, there are plenty of games to be won in the ACC.
The Tar Heels still should make the NCAA tournament. They still have a chance to make some noise in March. And seeing them play this way should give some confidence — both to the fans, the players and the coaching staff — that this season can get better.
You can find Rob on twitter @RobDauster.
Jun 29, 2015, 10:05 PM EDT
Maverick Rowan is reportedly focused on three schools.
Jun 29, 2015, 9:00 PM EDT
UCF is losing its third-leading scorer from last season to transfer.
Jun 29, 2015, 7:30 PM EDT
Xavier landed a three-star forward on Monday.
Jun 29, 2015, 6:00 PM EDT
Former Iowa State head coach Fred Hoiberg returned to Hilton Coliseum to give one final pre-game speech before a fantasy camp.
Jun 29, 2015, 4:52 PM EDT
It should not be a surprise who the best player from this class ended up being.
Jun 29, 2015, 2:30 PM EDT
Tony Hawk approves this court.
Jun 29, 2015, 1:40 PM EDT
Ryan has never finished below fourth in the Big Ten.
Jun 29, 2015, 12:45 PM EDT
Mullin has completely turned over the St. John’s roster.
Jun 29, 2015, 11:27 AM EDT
Knight’s most famous outburst may be lost to history.
Jun 29, 2015, 10:26 AM EDT
There are 22 total players participating in the trials.
Jun 29, 2015, 8:00 AM EDT
Steve Alford now has a pair of 2017 commitments.
Jun 28, 2015, 10:01 PM EDT
This is a very well thought-out statement from Martin.
Jun 28, 2015, 6:29 PM EDT
Johnny Jones has done an excellent job of recruiting his state in recent years.
Jun 28, 2015, 4:00 PM EDT
South Florida brought in an experienced guard who can contribute after sitting out a transfer season.
Jun 28, 2015, 2:45 PM EDT
Maryland transfer Robert Carter has worked on his conditioning since arriving from Georgia Tech.
Jun 28, 2015, 1:19 PM EDT
The USA U19 team is off to a 2-0 start at the FIBA World Championships.
Jun 28, 2015, 11:45 AM EDT
A top-100 player in the Class of 2016 is down to 10 schools.
Jun 28, 2015, 10:15 AM EDT
Syracuse picked up a transfer big man that should help in the future.
Jun 28, 2015, 9:15 AM EDT
Trae Young has been one of the best players of spring.
Jun 27, 2015, 9:05 PM EDT
The violations weren’t deemed severe, but the sheer number of them led to the NCAA adding a second year of probation.
- Re-ranking recruiting classes: Who are the 25 best players from the Class of 2004? 0
- Bo Ryan to retire from Wisconsin after next season 3
- Who are the names to watch for the 2016 NBA Draft? 2
- 2015 NBA Draft: The six biggest question marks moving forward 5
- 2015 NBA Draft: Pat Connaughton, Montrezl Harrell headline list of second round steals 0
- Karl-Anthony Towns becomes Kentucky’s third top overall pick in program history 1
- Syracuse makes it official that Mike Hopkins will take over in 2018 0
- UPDATED: 2015-2016 College Basketball Way-Too-Early Preseason Rankings (18)
- Cliff Alexander, Aaron Harrison among early entrants not selected Thursday night (6)
- Five-star guard to announce college choice Wednesday evening (5)
- 2015 NBA Draft: The six biggest question marks moving forward (5)
- Jamal Murray’s commitment a huge boost for Kentucky (4)