Although UNC has struggled to compete against lesser opponents, the win over the mighty Norse (great nickname) of Northern Kentucky shouldn't go into that category. First, UNC did pull away and won by 15. And second, it is still an in-between game, a holiday game. The better question is what the Heels got out of it.
Although ol' Roy Williams threatened to make his team run sprints during halftime, he ultimately just benched the starters (other htan Marcus Paige) for awhile.
After the game, Williams showed that he was just a bit too fond of the idea of humiliating his team: "I was ticked off. I just wanted to try somebody different. I didn't know what it was. The assistants on my staff did a great job because what I wanted to do was stay out at halftime and run sprints the entire freaking half. They thought it was not the right thing to do. But, God, I wanted to do that so badly."
You know, that's just not right. Good thing his assistants were human lithium.
Speaking of UNC, State fans have long thought that the Heels had an advantage with the in-state media since so many of them went to journalism school. We have some second-hand knowledge of this: during the 1993 title game, an N&O employee who was in the newsroom at the time (not Steve Politi, who we mentioned elsewhere today) told us that the better part of the room was cheering the Heels on.
Over time the potential for bias has changed. First, journalism itself has changed profoundly. Second, there are a lot more outlanders here than there used to be. And third, the perception of UNC's program has changed a great deal.
The old front porch, it ain't what it used to be.
In the past, there was a perception that the Asheville paper was firmly in UNC's camp. But Friday, Citizen-Times columnist Keith Jarrett threw a bomb and actually compared Roy Williams' program to Jerry Tarkanian's UNLV.
This is an article that would never have been written in the Triangle. That it comes from the Asheville paper, just 30 miles or so from Williams' home town of Marion, makes it even more stinging.
Just check this out:
"A former player employed by the basketball program — a guy twice suspended when he was a member of the team, allegedly for getting high — is found smoking pot in a $600,000 home he is renting from the famous coach.
"A current player on suspension admits to breaking several NCAA rules involving impermissible benefits, including borrowing rented cars — like a Porsche — from a convicted felon.
"Another current player has apparently committed such egregious NCAA violations that the school decides to not even ask for reinstatement, leaving open possibilities that include rule breaking so major that the request would be denied or the school fears the player hasn’t been completely honest about his transgressions, which could lead to the forfeiture of games if the player was allowed to compete.
"After the player is told he will no longer be allowed to play in games, he continues to practice with the squad and sits on the bench in his finest suit, much like the one he would wear to court to impress a judge.
"UNLV under Jerry Tarkanian?
"Nope, it’s coach Roy Williams and North Carolina, the tarnished Tar Heels that bear little resemblance to the revered program built by Dean Smith."
The Charlotte media might get rough with the Panthers or Bobcats/Hornets, but this is about as harsh as anyone has ever written about a program in this state, much less UNC. It may prove to be one of those Emperor-has-no-clothes-moments.
Given all that's gone on, the idea that Williams would publicly humiliate his team in that fashion is absolutely mind-boggling.
As we said Friday, Saturday's slate of games is appealing.
Syracuse gets a serious challenge from former Big East stablemate Villanova, which appears to be a program reborn. And 'Nova has an excellent chance at an upset; in fact, we sort of expect it.
State and Wake Forest both get chances to make statement games. Wake plays Xavier in Cincinnati in the annual Skip Prosser Classic.
Remember Matt Stainbrook? The somewhat clownish, Falstaffian big man from Western Michigan with a bad hairdo and ugly goggles?
He was greeted as a clown in Cameron but won respect by the end of the game.
Now at Xavier, Stainbrook has lost a ton of weight and cleaned up his appearance. He's nearly averaging a double-double.
And for State, playing Missouri is a chance to win some real respect.
Frank Haith has done a solid job at Mizzou after leaving Miami and he brings a running, pressing team to Raleigh.
While Mark Gottfried hasn't completely proved himself at State, what he has done is to bring Jim Harrick's basic offensive system to the ACC.
Harrick became a repellant figure to many as his career wound down at Rhode Island and Georgia, but his teams were usually highly competent on offense. When he brought UCLA to Cameron, we were really struck by how few mistakes his team made. Duke was much better, but the Bruins didn't give them a thing.
Gottfried has shown some signs that his offense could have those qualities as well.
There's a pretty good chance that BC will be completely crushed by VCU, suffer a soul-sucking loss that sets the team back a good bit. We just can't see them winning at this point. Keeping it close would be impressive.
Virginia Tech takes on UNCG, and will do so without Marquis Rankin.
Actually that's nothing new; Rankin hasn't dressed all season while contemplating his future. He'll stay at Virginia Tech, so presumably his college career is over.