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ACC Roundup - Are UNC And Roy Williams Having A Meltdown?

Carolina’s loss was extraordinary.

NCAA Basketball: Georgia Tech at North Carolina
Jan 4, 2020; Chapel Hill, North Carolina, USA; Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets forward Moses Wright (5) reacts after scoring in the first half at Dean E. Smith Center. 
Bob Donnan-USA TODAY Sports

Last week we thought that the Virginia-Virginia Tech game would be the most interesting ACC game Saturday.


It was, by far, the Georgia Tech-UNC game.

We couldn’t watch the first half but looked in on line. The first time we did it was 2-0 in favor of Tech. The second time it was 19-2.

In Chapel Hill.

UNC rallied a bit in the second half - the first half ended with the Yellow Jackets up 47-27 - but Tech kept pushing back.

Moses Wright looked more like Moses Malone around the basket and Jose Alvarado looked like mini-Magic.

We’ve talked about the great improvement of Wright and importance of Alvarado, but they’re not Malone and Magic.

UNC made them look that good.

Georgia Tech sliced through UNC’s defense like it was nothing. It was like Buzz Slamma Jamma. If they weren’t cutting through the lane for crunching dunks early, it was Alvarado giving guys easy set ups down low.

How bad was it?

It looked like a Matt Doherty team.

If you remember that train wreck, you know how bad it was.

In his post-game comments, Williams was blistering, saying he had never been more negative about himself or about a team. He said he came close to having them run sprints at halftime but that it would have embarrassed them...not that he cared (he said).

At one point, he said he asked four of his players if they’d prefer to go to the locker room.

At another he said something like he was trying not to kill somebody then apologized to the room and said he didn’t mean the assembled. Then he alluded to wanting to not kill someone else.

At another point, he said, through clenched teeth, that if someone was trying to kill his ass he’d sure as hell fight back, implying that his team didn’t (and this would be correct).

Keep in mind that Georgia Tech was previously impotent offensively and in this game, on the road, in proud Chapel Hill, very nearly scored 100.

And nearly effortlessly too.

And despite Tech building serious foul trouble in the first half, and making a series of stupid turnovers and mistakes that left a door open for UNC, the Tar Heels didn’t walk through it.

And that’s why Dean Smith will soon fall behind Williams in victories - they’re currently tied - but will remain the superior coach.

Smith had some weird teams and some strange stretches but he had total control over his program. No ever got very far out of line or off the company line by much.

We can’t remember a Smith team ever playing like this.

If it did though, Smith would never have talked about it like this in public.

He never spoke negatively about his players publicly, at least not in this manner. In fact, we think one of the keys of his success was that he built a program that yes was insular but that was predicated on loyalty and he was always loyal to his guys.

It’s hard to say that about Williams after watching these comments. He’s in charge, he’s the coach. If his team didn't show up or has a bad attitude, it’s on him - at least publicly.

It’s astonishing and embarrassing to watch this video. His guys played poorly - arguably inexcusably bad - but he’s the leader. He shouldn’t talk about his players like he does here. In private? Okay. But not publicly.

Obviously the take from the Yellow Jackets is much more upbeat. They played brilliantly and hard from beginning to end and deserve this win. You can’t knock them one bit. It was a tremendous team effort and came with lead scorer Michael DeVoe struggling terribly on offense.

Wright has really come on, as we’ve said, and hit 9-13 in this one for 22. Alvarado had 25.

Garrison Brooks, who Williams correctly identified as the only Tar Heel who fought, had 35.

Georgia Tech plays Duke on Wednesday while UNC next plays Jeff Capel’s Pitt team and all eyes will be on that one.

We thought whatever was going on at Wake would make life more difficult but the Deacs pulled off a road win at Pitt without Sharone Wright or Mike Wynn, both suspended for non-public reasons.

Didn’t matter.

Wake had enough depth, and enough character, to pull out the win, despite being down by 16.

It’s been a while since we could say nice things about the Deacs but they deserve praise after this win: well done.

Meanwhile, we thought NC State could win at Clemson without CJ Bryce but we were off the mark there: last-place Clemson won 81-70.

We didn't realize that Clemson was 1-6 in their last seven games. Ouch.

So obviously this is a big deal for the Tigers who are now 7-7 and 1-3 in the ACC.

Aamir Sims had 17 to pace the Tigers. El-Amir Dawes had 16.

It’s a tough loss for State but they can afford it. We’ve talked before about despair as a huge factor in ACC basketball. That was an asset for Clemson Saturday.

And that reminds us: while everyone tells us that this is a bad year for the ACC overall, there is no sign, outside of Chapel Hill anyway, that the conference’s competitive DNA has been damaged. Teams are fighting hard.

We asked earlier if maybe Louisville was a bit soft and after Florida State we’re more inclined to think yes. Apparently, at least to an extent, Chris Mack agrees. The Louisville coach: “I give all the credit to Florida State. I thought for, really, the entire game they were the tougher team. I thought our guards got manhandled. They shot over the top of our guards, especially in the second half.”

Jordan Nwora was terrific with 32 points on 11-15 from the floor but he needs more help. Stephen Enoch had 10; no one else had more than six.

Is it time to seriously upgrade FSU? We have no faith in them as a tournament team but you could make an argument that they’re the best team in the ACC. Certainly no worse than second right now although Virginia may still be ahead of them.

And Virginia isn’t really Virginia right now. The defense is still there - it’s foundational as Tony Bennett likes to say - but offense isn’t there and one key aspect of Virginia basketball, namely hanging on to the ball, isn’t either.

The defense is going to win a lot, but this is not a vintage Tony Bennett team.

However they did rip Virginia Tech good on Saturday, winning 65-39 and leading coach Mike Young to call the loss “painful.”

We didn’t realize just how young Virginia Tech is (second youngest in the country). Despite that, they’re 10-4.

Young correctly said they'd learn from this one and strap it on for Syracuse. Contrast his reaction to that of Ol’ Roy, as detailed above, and you get a sense of how seriously wrong things have gone for UNC.

Like UNC, Syracuse, formerly an elite program, is struggling. The Orange lost to Notre Dame Saturday, 88-87 and fall to 8-6.

As we expected, Syracuse had a lot of trouble containing John Mooney, who racked up 28 points and 14 rebounds.

Prentiss Hubb had 22 while TJ Gibbs had 21.

As usual this season, the three-man backcourt led Syracuse. Buddy Boeheim had 23, Joe Girard 20 and Elijah Hughes 19. Syracuse’s bigs, Marek Dolezaj and Bourama Sidibe only managed 13 and two points respectively, although Dolezaj came close to a triple double with 10 boards and seven assists. He’s a nifty player but at less than 200 lbs. there’s only so much you can expect.