Friday, February 12, 2010

UNC's Epic Collapse Continues

North Carolina has been missing Tyler Zeller for a month, and Travis Wear has been out for close to a week and could be out for much longer with a sprained ankle. And now things get even worse, with Ed Davis out with a broken wrist. He will be out for at least the remainder of the regular season.

Davis has better stats in his sophomore year than he had in his freshman year (13.4 ppg and 9.6 rpg this year, after 6.7 ppg and 6.6 rpg last year), although I honestly have been somewhat disappointed. He has better stats mostly because he has more opportunities, including spending 50% more minutes on the floor per game. I've actually been a little bit disappointed in him. He came in as a freshman with probably the most polished offensive post game any true freshman has had in years, but he was too skinny. And he has not gotten larger, and still seems too skinny to be the Top 5 pick in the NBA draft that many have called him. And perhaps most damning of all has been that Davis has not stepped into the complete leadership vacuum on North Carolina

I can't recall any team in recent history that has fallen apart like North Carolina has this season. I know that Clemson opened up the 2006-07 season 17-0 before missing the NCAA Tournament, but that was always a mirage. They played a joke of a schedule that really wasn't much different from the 14-0 start that Miami had this season, another team that looks likely to end up in the NIT. This North Carolina team is oozing in talent, and did manage victories over Ohio State and Michigan State, and lost by two points at Kentucky. Yet now they've lost seven of eight and have careened out of the field of 65

North Carolina's lack of an elite point guard has hurt them, but their ball handling isn't any worse than it was when they were playing well in November. What's really hurt them has been defense. Their defensive effort and rotation has been embarrassingly bad. In the six previous season that Roy Williams has coached in Chapel Hill his team has never had a Pomeroy defensive efficiency worse than 23rd. This year they're 65th.

I was as nauseated by the media's overhyping of Tyler Hansbrough as much as anybody else, but I do think that the public backlash got so bad that Hansbrough was actually underrated by most casual fans as a senior. One thing you had to love about him was that he always gave 100%, and that he could always motivate his teammates. Hansbrough would not have allowed a mental collapse like this, where half the team seems to have checked out and is preparing for either the NBA Draft or next season. It's possible that the team was always due to take a step backwards after losing a leader like that. Deon Thompson is a good player, but he's no leader. And Marcus Ginyard has been a big disappointment this season. And after that, the only scholarship player who is not a freshman or sophomore is Will Graves, who was suspended from the team last year for bad behavior.

The Ed Davis injury will just give the Tar Heels players another reason to mentally check out. We will be remembering this collapse for many years.

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