I remember it like it was yesterday. “The Boy” had just got home from school and we were huddled in front of the MacBook in my office. The season was young but the lifelong Tar Heel fan in me knew that things were not right. The 2009-2010 Tar Heels would go on to have the worst season I can ever remember. It was ugly and disturbing what happened to this team. Yet on November 13, 2009, we heard the number one high school recruit shock the world and say he was going to attend North Carolina and NOT Duke.
As the season continued to tank, there was still some hope. We knew what was coming the next year. It killed me to watch Duke win it all knowing that Carolina had fallen so far so quickly (they lost in the NIT Championship). You see this rivalry is VERY cyclical. I thought we might be going through a dry spell for the Heels while Duke seemed to have it all going their way. They had a great recruiting class coming in and a red-shirt player in Seth Curry waiting in the wings. They were going to be loaded. Meanwhile, the Heels found out at the 11th hour that BOTH Wear twins would transfer and leave a huge void in the “Bigs”. Yet we still had that hope that Harrison Barnes would make it all better.
The 2010-2011 season started and it looked like the trouble of the previous year carried over. A bad tournament to start the season and the young Heels looked lost. Roy kept saying they would get better. Harrison Barnes looked average at best and Tar Heel Nation was worried. A blowout loss to Georgia Tech (last in the ACC) and people were calling for changes. Larry Drew II lost his starting job (which many had been begging for) and would soon exit the program. Then it all happened. Like Roy said, they would get better.
I said it then and I will say it now, when Carolina and Duke met for the first time, Duke didn’t win that game, Carolina lost it. They had it in their grasp but their inexperience and inability to put them away cost them. When that game was over, I was not too upset. I knew they would meet again and I knew the Heels would be ready. They learned throughout the season. Barnes kept getting better and Kendall Marshall’s stock sky rocketed. This is a team that should not be overlooked. Trust me, I’ve watched a lot of College Basketball and I’ve watched a lot of North Carolina.
Who knows what the tourney will bring. This is still a very young team. It’s a team with only 8 scholarship players. It’s a team that doesn’t shoot free throws well and still has offensive lapses. But one thing that is different and somewhat foreign to Tar Heel nation…this team plays defense. I’ve never seen a Roy Williams coached team do that. He usually outscores you. Yet this team is different and they have three very important things.
1 – A true point guard. He makes others better and scores when he needs to. The perfect fit for a Roy Williams team.
2 – A defensive stopper. John Henson is the player they thought they were getting last year.
3 – An assassin. While Barnes has disappointed (?) on the hype, he has that “it” factor that Kobe and Michael had. It’s something LeBron has always struggled with. When the game is on the line, Barnes wants the ball. So far, Barnes has delivered.
I like this team to do well in the tournament. While a part of me thinks they could literally go to the Final Four, winning the ACC and bringing “The Tar Heel Way” back to Chapel Hill has been sweet. Last year is but a memory now. The Heels are ACC Champs and not done yet. What started on November 13, 2009 is still being written and I love a good story.