Caulton Tudor

Heels show December form in ACC Tournament ouster

Posted March 14, 2014

— Unfortunately for North Carolina, the Tar Heels began their basketball postseason Friday in early-season form.

The team that fell hopelessly behind early en route to an 80-75 loss to Pitt looked a lot like the same group of players who lost 83-80 to Belmont on Nov. 17, then 63-59 to Alabama-Birmingham on Dec. 1, 73-67 to Wake Forest on Jan. 5 and 63-57 to Miami on Jan. 8.

At no point during the ACC Tournament quarterfinals Friday did the Heels resemble the team that won 12 straight down the stretch and ended the regular season last week with an impressive offensive performance in a 93-81 loss at Duke.

Why the Heels showed up at Greensboro in the way-back machine is anyone’s guess.

Maybe it was rust. Pitt (25-8) was impressive Thursday in an 84-55 walkover second-round win against Wake Forest. The 5th-seeded Panthers probably won’t run out of steam until about midway through the second half of Saturday’s first semifinal game, when they will take on top-seeded Virginia.

Carolina, on the other hand, had been idle for a week since the trip to Duke and clearly displayed re-entry trouble Friday. It was deep into the second half before the No. 4 seeded Heels (23-9) seemed to get in gear. By then, it was too little too late.

Whatever happened, the early-season Heels reappeared.

They missed 11 free throws (21-32), shot 39.3 percent on field goals, got outworked on the boards (43-35 Pitt including 21 rebounds by Talib Zanna alone) and got nothing to speak of from starters Leslie McDonald (no points, two rebounds, five fouls, three turnovers) and Kennedy Meeks (one point, three rebounds, loose defense in eight minutes).

While Roy Williams and his players now have ample time to sort through the ashes, they also will live with the aftermath of the performance Friday.

The Heels no longer are in the hunt to open the NCAA Tournament at Raleigh's PNC Arena. They now have the profile of a No. 4, 5 or 6 seed somewhere.

Virginia (26-6 with the regular-season title) is in line for a PNC start on March 21. Duke is another likely ACC team marked for the Raleigh second- and third-round games. 

If recent NCAA patterns hold, the Heels are prime timber for a starting spot in San Antonio on March 21 and, as much as the selection committee probably wants to line up another Carolina vs. Kansas meeting in the early rounds, that’s a stretch at the moment. The Jayhawks are in line for a No. 2 spot in St. Louis.

But of more importance than seeding and site selection is the issue of improvement, which may have something to do with incentive to win.

“I thought they had a great sense of urgency,” Williams said of Pitt.

He couldn’t say the same of his team. Carolina’s first five or six minutes amounted to a textbook example of poor effort and execution.

If the rest of this postseason is to be better than Friday for the Heels, that situation has to be reversed.

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  • shadygradyTHEEL Mar 18, 7:26 a.m.

    Until Roy changes his starting lineup he is going to the the same results. Johnson and Britt need to start instead of Meeks and Mcdonald. They bring more energy, better scoring, rebounding, shot blocking and ball handling to start the game.

  • StunGunn Mar 16, 8:16 a.m.

    Disgusted with the players and with Coach Williams! That level of intensity is simply... View More

    — Posted by rosemarymcdonald23

    You can't include Paige in that starting five. His first halves have been sluggish, but it's not due to lack of effort, it's due to other teams targeting him.

  • hiker40diver Mar 15, 9:52 p.m.

    Coach k and Roy have to scream and cuss so much to motivate their players, maybe they are under paid! ( or recruiting the wrong players)

  • rosemarymcdonald23 Mar 15, 12:38 p.m.

    Disgusted with the players and with Coach Williams! That level of intensity is simply unacceptable this time of year!! Roy needs to bench the entire starting five. If we are going to lose I would rather lose with kids who WANT to play!!

  • wjuliang Mar 15, 10:46 a.m.

    UNC won the second half! :)

  • StunGunn Mar 15, 7:20 a.m.

    The Heels did look bad in this game, but they also struggled against VT and ND, and lost to Duke, ending their regular season on a down note, looking bad even in their wins.

  • thinkfirsttypelater Mar 15, 2:54 a.m.

    aww

  • HeadsUp Mar 14, 10:20 p.m.

    In Roys defense, Pitt was in more of a desperation mode. They needed this win to make the big... View More

    — Posted by PanthersFan45

    "I'm a little surprised the Heels got into such a big hole in a tourney game like this ...... just too many points to be down in a game like this."

    Well, gee, that can happen when your coach has told the whole world how little he thinks of this tournament.

    What Ol Roy doesn't seem to et is that when you let your team take the weekend off, it disrupts their flow and momentum right before the Big Dance.

    Not that this analogy is likely to strike a chord in Chapel Hill these days, but it would be like letting your students go on spring break right before final exams, which would be bound to set them back.

    Better to press on full steam ahead, and keep the team's momentum going.

  • etrnluth Mar 14, 10:19 p.m.

    The last 3 outings for the Heels, (including this lost today) shows that it's time for Coach Roy to make a serious change to his starting lineup. Meeks and McDonald should be benched - period. Their lack-luster effort is only hurting the team. Roy's starting five should now be Paige, Tokoto, McAdoo, B. Johnson and Joel James.

  • PanthersFan45 Mar 14, 9:51 p.m.

    In Roys defense, Pitt was in more of a desperation mode. They needed this win to make the big dance and may need to beat Virginia tomorrow as well. I'm a little surprised the Heels got into such a big hole in a tourney game like this ...... just too many points to be down in a game like this.

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