Kentucky latest to experience Heels coaster
Posted December 15, 2013
With P.J. Hairston and Leslie McDonald in NCAA limbo, North Carolina head coach Roy Williams told ESPN's Dick Vitale his current roster was the least talented of his Tar Heel squads. That same group knocked off Louisville on a neutral court.
A vocal minority of North Carolina fans proclaimed the game of basketball had passed Williams by, insisting losses to Belmont and U.A.B. were closer to reality than the win over the Cardinals. The Tar Heels gave doubters a pleasant surprise defeating Michigan State on the road.
Williams is consistently dubbed "overrated" by his peers. North Carolina's win over Kentucky on Saturday afternoon completed the high profile trifecta of victories of Rick Pitino, Tom Izzo and John Calipari.
Are you not entertained?
If it appears I'm going full "Stan" for Williams, it's only to counter the absurdity that emanates from Chapel Hill. Will Graves rolling trees in a rental house, the summer of Hairston, stubbornness with the starting lineup, bouncing before the completion of a game, hoarding timeouts, booting fans, comparisons to Haiti, suicide jokes, Kansas stickers and all the other dumb periphery. It's always something.
Williams has his faults and he's brought plenty of the silliness upon himself, but the coach tends to know what he's doing. Guys just don't stumble into several Final Fours and a couple NCAA titles. Not everyone is capable of wringing out maximum effort from a talented, but flawed roster missing their leading scorer from last season.
Just look across the way and notice the headache Calipari is dealing with at the moment. The Wildcats should be a vastly better team once the calendar hits March, but the preseason No. 1 has no signature wins and armchair body language experts are dissecting the exasperated look over every player.
"What we are right now is we're not a good basketball team and we're not a good team because our emotion is all based on our individual play, instead of our team play," Calipari said. "We're not close to that right now. Our stuff is all based on, 'Did I miss a free throw? Did I get beat on the dribble? Did I miss a shot?' I mean, it's just we got to get through this."
Williams is experiencing the opposite as his group continues to figure out their roles and pick up confidence. Marcus Paige overcame an invisible first half performance, where Kentucky's length gave him problems, and provided key production in the second half. James Michael McAdoo's play was used as a teachable moment for Julius Randle by Calipari during post game.
The losses to Belmont and U.A.B. are still too fresh in the minds of fans and pundits to dismiss. Treat them as cautionary reminders. The Tar Heels are good, but not so good that showing up will get the job done. Wins over Louisville, Michigan State and Kentucky just prove the season isn't lost without Hairston and McDonald in the lineup.