Monday, April 11, 2011

UNC Basketball 2010-2011 Season Wrapup: Part II

Note this is part 2 of a 2 part season wrapup.  For part one, click here.

Lowlight #5: Oh Offense, offense, wherefore art thou offense?
UNC rebounded from their disappointing second half in Durham with wins against Clemson and Wake Forest, neither of which were particularly pleasing from an aesthetic point of view.  Their next game was against Boston College who they had managed to score 106 points against in their previous meeting.  This time the Heels failed to score half that, tallying 48 points, the lowest of the Roy Williams era.  Luckily BC scored two points less and Carolina got the win, but it was an ugly game that made people wonder whether Kendall Marshall was hitting a wall and whether the team had peaked too early.  It also was just a painful game to watch.

Highlight #6: Black Falcon Blood > Tigerblood

The Tar Heels answered their doubters with back to back double digit victories at NC State and at home against Maryland (and in the meantime Charlie Sheen's antics captivated America, thus the).  Their next matchup was against Florida State in Talahassee, the site of Duke's first loss of the season.  The game was neck and neck the whole way through and with 18 seconds remaining Derwin Kitchen hit a free throw to give the Seminoles a one point advantage.  To the surprise of some, Roy Williams called a timeout with 10 seconds left.  Barnes was given the ball about 8 feet from the top of the key and went iso with his man, looking like he would drive to the hoop. Instead he pulled up from three and hit an absolutely cold blooded three pointer to give UNC the win.  Perhaps the most surprising thing was how muted Dickie V's response was to the shot.  Perhaps he genuinely had come to expect that from Barnes, but I would bet he would have yelled and waxed poetic for a good five minutes had Singler or Smith made the shot.

Highlight #7: ACC Regular Season Champions in the Sweetest Way Possible

With both Duke and UNC coming into the final game of the regular season at 13-2, the rematch in Chapel Hill had the added stakes of being for the outright regular season ACC title.  Now time for a confession.  I wasn't able to watch this game in its entirety.  I was in Charleston with a group of friends from medical school on spring break, and everyone decided to get dinner at 8:30.  Consequently I was stuck getting up from the table every five minutes to go watch the game on the TV at the bar.  To be fair I caught all of the final 5 minutes and probably slightly over 50% of the rest of the game,  but I hate missing any of a Duke-UNC game.  As for the game itself, UNC made an early statement by starting three walkon seniors who proceded to help UNC to a 3-0 lead before being pulled.  Kendall Marshall was the star of the game with 15 points, 11 assists and only 2 turnovers.  Harrison Barnes hassled Singler into only 8 points on 3-14 shooting.  Dexter Strickland also put an exclamation point on the victory with a thunderous dunk on Miles Plumlee (13:55 in the above video).

Highlight #8: 40 for 40

After capturing the regular season title, UNC had their letdown in the ACC tournament with three consecutive slow starts.   Carolina was down 19 to Miami in the second half of their ACC tournament game before a furious comeback was capped by a Tyler Zeller buzzer beater with time expiring.  The Heels then proceeded to fall behind early again in their third meeting with Clemson in the ACC semifinals.  With the Heels down 5 and 1:23 remaining on the clock, Barnes hit a three to bring UNC within two (Zeller scored the tying bucket), then scored 15 points in overtime to finish with 40 points, tying Tyler Hansbrough's single game freshman scoring record.

Lowlight #6: A Dish Served Cold

Carolina's ACC tournament habit of surrendering big leads early against came back to bite them in the ACC tournament finals against Duke.  It was a game I had a bad feeling about as soon as the matchup was set and UNC was thoroughly outplayed by a Duke team that looked like a bunch of seasoned veterans.  Nolan Smith bothered Kendall Marshall all game and Duke shot 9-20 from beyond the arc.  While the refs were not as awful as some Carolina fans claimed, there was an atrocious charge called on a Dexter Strickland posterization of Kyle Singler that did kill some early momentum from Carolina.  In many ways it may have been best had UNC lost to Clemson in the semifinals.

Highlight #9: John Henson Also Likes to Live Dangerously

After an opening round game against Long Island that was closer than it should have been for much of the first half, Carolina faced off against the PAC-10 tournament champ Washington Huskies.  Washington jumped to an early lead, then the game was back and forth.  John Henson came up with a huge play with five seconds remaining and Carolina up one when he deflected Washington's inbound pass to Dexter Strickland, who appeared to seal the game with two free throws. However John Henson attempted to catch Venoy Overton's desperation shot, only to drop it out of bounds with a second left.  Washington inbounded the ball to Isiah Thomas whose shot was off mark.  Henson for some reason attempted to goaltend the shot (he didn't touch the ball) which would have been the dumbest decision in college basketball history had Thomas's foot not been on the line and had the ending of the Pitt-Butler game not occurred only a night earlier.

Highlight #10: Derrick Williams Dominates Duke, UNC Dominates Marquette 

A night before UNC's sweet sixteen game the Blue Devils faced off against the Arizona Wildcats.  Duke seemed poised for a blowout in the first half and the only reason I kept watching was Derrick Williams' buzzer beating three to cut Arizona's halftime deficit to six.  In the second half Arizona looked like the Monstars in the first half of the space jam game, thoroughly dominating Duke including a couple sick jams to upset the Blue Devils.  The next night the Tar Heels eviscerated the Marquette Golden Eagles, who were never able to find any semblance of offense against UNC's length.

Lowlight #7: Kentucky en Fuego
With a final four field that already included VCU, Butler, and Connecticut, I felt like Carolina suddenly had a chance to cut down the nets in Houston if they could get past the Kentucky Wildcats in the elite eight.  Kentucky had upset overwhelming favorite Ohio State in the sweet sixteen, but I figured Carolina had a good chance since they had already beaten Kentucky once and since it would be hard for the Wildcats to reproduce their 9-21 shooting beyond the arc from the previous matchup.  I was wrong.  Kentucky shot a ridiculous 12-22 from 3 and John Henson spent most of the game on the bench in foul trouble.  UNC did roar back in the final minutes due to an 8-0 run by Harrison Barnes, but down one with 1:02 left, DeAndre Liggins blocked a Kendall Marshall layup and then converted on the other end with a three to win the game and end the UNC season.

Final Thoughts 
Despite the fact the season ended with a lowlight, it was one of the most enjoyable seasons of Carolina basketball I've witnessed.  We saw an inconsistent team full of young talent mature into a Final Four contender, in part due to the departure of Larry Drew II.  In a year where Duke was penciled in as the best team in the ACC all year, UNC managed to capture the ACC regular season title by beating the Blue Devils in the Dean Dome.  Despite the ups and downs of the season, Carolina finished ranked exactly what they were ranked in the preseason, #8.  If the rumors are true and Barnes comes back, next year could be something special.  However, there will also be enormous expectations that at times may take some of the fun out of watching UNC next season (trust me I was there for 2009).  On the flip side the NIT debacle last season makes one really appreciate how much fun it is to see a UNC team like this year's team.  I will never forget 2010-2011.

No comments:

Post a Comment