Henson lone bright spot in loss that leaves Roy befuddled
Posted February 17, 2010
“I’m at a loss.”
These are not phrases we’ve heard out of Roy Williams’ mouth very often in his time as the head coach of North Carolina, or at Kansas for that matter, but they were both uttered at one point after the Heels’ 68-51 loss at Georgia Tech Tuesday night.
Williams has never missed the NCAA Tournament as a head coach when his team had been eligible to participate – his Jayhawk team did not play in the ’89 Big Dance because it was placed on probation for violations that occurred before his arrival – and he’s never been on the losing end of a score line more than a dozen times in one season.
This year, he may experience both.
At 3-8 in conference play, and 14-12 overall, the Heels are almost certainly in a position where the only invite to March Madness will come via an ACC Tournament Championship.
Carolina can pick up wins over Miami, Boston College, and Florida State, but victories over Duke and Wake Forest on the road will be tough to come by, and a 6-10 conference record just isn’t going to get it done during a down year in the ACC.
The Heels do have quality non-conference wins over Michigan State and Ohio State – both top-11 teams in the latest poll – and a win over Virginia Tech that is looking better every day (the Hokies beat the Demon Deacons Tuesday night to secure second place in the ACC).
But, those victories were a long time ago, and none were in their opponent’s gym.
In the “what have you done for me lately” world of Bracketology, right or wrong, your tournament profile is a lot more about what you do in February than what you did on and before January 10.
The potential has always been there for Carolina this year, but the breakout winning streak we’ve all been expecting after several valiant early-season efforts has yet to transpire.
There are a number of issues that this group has had to overcome – a rash of injuries to starters and key reserves, and ridiculously high expectations to name a few – but nobody thought this was the “worst-case scenario” team it has turned out to be.
Is it bad chemistry? A poorly constructed team? A lack of leadership? All of the above? None?
One thing is obvious at this point – not even the team’s Hall of Fame coach has any idea.
It's the middle of February, and yet Carolina had as many turnovers as field goals (19) against the Yellow Jackets, and shot less than 42% from the free throw line on 24 attempts.
When you see Williams on the sidelines now, the look on his face almost suggests that he has no idea who these people are on the court wearing his team’s jerseys.
He calls plays – the team doesn’t run them. He emphasizes valuing the ball – the Heels turn it over 15 times in the first 20 minutes.
At some point the players just need to play, but given the politically correct nature of today’s world, Ole Roy can’t just come out and say that.
What’s worse is that Ed Davis’ injury may do the team even more long-term harm than initially thought.
That’s because one of the few bright spots Tuesday night for the Heels was the play of John Henson.
The 6-foot-10 beanpole looked absolutely lost at the three spot for the entire year, but Davis’ bum wrist has forced a move to the four and a huge increase in minutes – and visibility.
In 30 minutes Henson tallied 11 points, 10 rebounds and four blocks against a front-line composed of Gani Lawal and Derrick Favors – both considered first-round picks if they decide to leave for the 2010 NBA Draft.
With a Brandon Wright-like reach and incredible bounce, Henson has had scouts drooling over his potential for a while.
If the freshman starts putting together double-double efforts like he did Tuesday night on a consistent basis - and without Davis in the fold he will get ample opportunity - there is no doubt Henson will have a serious decision to make at the end of the year.
Is Henson ready for the NBA? No. But was Frederic Weis? The only thing the Freshman had ever accomplished in his career was serving as a prop during Vince Carter’s incredible dunk during the Olympics, and yet he was still picked in the top-15 because of his size and potential.
Losing Davis this offseason to the NBA would hurt - losing Davis and Henson would be a disaster.
I know it's only one game, but many general managers have used first-round picks on players with even lighter resumes.
The sun has not set on the Heels’ 2009-2010 season just yet – just ask the 1983 N.C. State Wolfpack about whether or not the ACC Tournament can be a springboard to a deep run in March – but North Carolina certainly has just as many questions now as it did weeks ago, and perhaps even fewer answers.
I picked Carolina to finish second behind in Duke in the ACC regular season standings this season, and I had a bunch of reasons why at the time.
Right now, I, like Roy Williams, am at a loss.