We have to admit that we didn't see it coming: we imagined That's it was possible for Virginia to beat UNC, but we never thought would happen in Chapel Hill, certainly not this season. And in our wildest dreams, we never, ever thought Virginia could take a 20 point lead and win by 15. It never occurred to us that they could run off 18 straight points -- in the Dean Dome? That was beyond any possible expectation we had of this team.
But there it is: Virginia completely controlled Carolina in the second half. They held UNC to 60 points, while scoring 75 of their own. It's almost shocking to see that Virginia shot 51.9%, while UNC was held to 35.7%.
Certainly injuries play a part in this factoid, but Virginia, arguably, had a deeper rotation than UNC. Carolina's bench support basically consists now of Travis Wear (16) and Dexter Strickland (20). Leslie McDonald also got eight minutes. Who ever thought UVa could have that advantage in this game?
Larry Drew has taken a lot of criticism for this team, but he was one at the end who showed the most heart.
After the game, schadenfreude aside for a moment, it was tempting to feel sorry for Roy Williams.
"How," he lamented in his post-game comments, "can you go any lower? Be honest: how can it be any worse than it is right now?"
(Okay schadenfreude back: recruits could bail!)
He also said this:
"We've got a lot of problems, and staying in front of the basketball has been one from Day One with this team. And I really thought we could be a good defensive team, and we haven't shown that. Two or three games I thought we were really good defensively. Last game, I thought we were really good defensively â¦ but weâre not really good defensively on a consistent basis."
According to the N&O, he was tearing up when he said this.
In Clemson meanwhile, playing again without Demontez Stitt, the Tigers really took it to Maryland. It's not that the score was overwhelming -- 62-53 is hardly a crushing defeat -- but they showed a lot of heart and grit and therefore beat Maryland at their own game since that's been the identity of Gary Williams' program from day one.
Clemson won despite Trevor Booker, shooting just 2-16. In fact, Clemson shot just 31.9% for the game, while Maryland was marginally better at 34.6%.
The big surprise for Clemson was the performance of Jerai Grant, a guy who doesn't score a lot, but he managed 18 points and 12 boards (Booker pulled down 16 by the way).
As a side benefit of Maryland's loss, Duke moves into first place.
Maryland of course didn't need to lose, but it's not a crippling loss. Losing to Virginia probably is, and losing to Miami will certainly hurt Virginia Tech.
For what it's worth, it sort of validates our theory about how Seth Greenberg can really get his team up for a big game but doesn't always manage to do the same for a lesser opponent.
Virginia Tech has shown a lot of confidence lately, and seemed be putting it together. That came to a grinding halt in Coral Gables.
Virginia Tech fell behind by 19 before coming back in the second half. That was about it though. They never got it under five and lost 82-75.
Nonetheless, if invitations were going out today, Tech would be the last team that the NCAA committee would consider. At 12-10, Boston College is pretty much out barring a really, really hot streak. Miami's weak schedule and poor ACC performance rule them out. State's in last place which would rule anyone out.
As of this writing, Carolina would be out as well. At 13-8 and just 2-4 in the ACC, the Heels are not currently an NCAA team.
A week or so ago, we asked what Mike Krzyzewski would do with Carolina's roster. We're obviously just guessing, but here goes:
The first thing would be to emphasize athleticism and to put most of the players on the floor -- provided they play defense.
Our guess is that Ed Davis would start in the post, Drew and Dexter Strickland would start and Marcus Ginyard, if he's able, would start as well.
The other position is sort of tricky. Krzyzewski has never cared for the UNC model, where they usually have a high and low post player. He has sacrificed rebounding for the defensive pressure a smaller, more athletic player brings.
The problem remains, who is going to defend? While we realize that Jon Henson is still physically immature, we wouldn't be surprised to see him start simply as a shotblocker and defender. It would be a very narrow role, but one to which he might be well-suited.
This would give UNC McDonald and Thompson off the bench, along with the Wear twins. And when Tyler Zeller gets back, he would probably start.
The difference would be -- or one key difference would be -- how this group approaches defense under a different coach. Obviously, with their injuries, UNC has real issues. A different approach though might yield different results.
One thing seems certain: Krzyzewski would keep going through people until he got the best combination on the floor.
An equally interesting question to ask now would be how Tony Bennett would do the same thing. You can reasonably bet that if he were the coach, defense would have a higher priority and be executed better. If you can do it in Charlottesville with their roster, there's no reason why UNC can't do it with theirs.
Here's another question to ask about UNC's roster, and at this point, it's probably fair: who has exceeded expectations?
We're not sure you can say that about any of them, and the freshman class looks much less imposing than it did at the beginning of the season. Henson will eventually become a very good player when he fills out, and Strickland has a lot of potential. We're not sold on the rest.
For that matter, the sophomore class is not overwhelming either. Davis and Tyler Zeller have struggled with injuries, but both still have a lot of potential, perhaps particularly Davis. And while we have a certain admiration for Drew, he still makes far too many mistakes for a point guard.
It seems strange to say these things about a UNC basketball team, but right now, they're not where they could be -- or maybe should be.
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