Duke is widely picked to be the best team in the ACC this coming season. And maybe the Blue Devils will be. We hope so; most of our readers do too.
But things don’t always go as expected. Take UNC basketball last season.
Picked number one nationally in the pre-season, the Tar Heels rapidly fell apart and missed the tournament after making it to the championship game the previous season.
It was really a surprising fall.
UNC had four starters back - Armando Bacot, Leaky Black, RJ Davis and Caleb Love.
Toss in transfer Pete Nance and it seemed like easy money.
Only it wasn’t.
Bacot admitted on a couple of occasions that his team was having serious chemistry and effort issues and after the ACC Tournament, the Tar Heels turned down an invitation to the NIT with what almost seemed like relief.
And this season?
Well, it’s going to be a challenge but Hubert Davis seems pretty optimistic that he can turn things back around.
He talks here about his own struggles as a player at UNC and the virtue of struggle.
And fundamentally he’s right: things will not always go your way.
Still, in a lot of places, notably Kentucky and Chapel Hill, people put immense pressure on struggling coaches. We’d like to think this wouldn’t happen at Duke, but it did happen at Duke, and to Mike Krzyzewski in his second and third seasons, no less.
Still, the fact is that UNC fans are going to expect a lot this season. If Davis has a second bad run, Carolina fans will not be kind.
But he has a very different roster this time so things may be different. And as much fun as it is to see your rival suffer, the truth is that the ACC is better when UNC is good. So a bit of pain, perhaps, but schadenfreude is not a wise long-term policy.