There is no other way to explain it other than it wasn’t meant to be for this UNC Tarheel squad to cut down the nets this year. Once the crew had made their decisions to return to Carolina, the championship dream was within their grasp and the future was bright in Chapel Hill. They stumbled a couple of times throughout the season (UNLV & FL State), people questioned their toughness and outside shooting, but they started to click at just the right time and ended up earning that coveted number one seed. However, “Wrist Watch” took on a whole new meaning as the Heels suffered two major injuries to their starting five within the last few games (John Henson and Kendall Marshall) and it proved to be too much to overcome. The Heels fought through Henson’s wrist injury and probably even became better for it as we saw McAdoo really start to come into his own and become a real contributor to the team. However, the second major injury, Kendall Marshall’s broken wrist, threw a HUGE monkey wrench into things. The point guard is the engine and Kendall Marshall isn’t your normal, Honda Accord, engine. Kendall is the Ferrari of point guards and one does not simply replace a Ferrari engine. You might say, “Well it is Carolina, they just need to plug in another McDonald’s All-American.” but due to injuries earlier in the year to Leslie McDonald and Dexter Strickland, Stillman White was their only hope. No excuses though, this is Carolina basketball and they should be able to bounce back and fight through it with all of the other talent on the team. The Heels almost did just that but alas, it wasn’t meant to be this year.
Credit to Stillman White, who as a freshman, played very hard in his first two starts… in the Sweet 16 and Elite 8 (no pressure there) and had no turnovers. However, much like Kendall struggled with shots earlier in the season, Stillman didn’t have an offensive impact to keep defenses honest and it does take time to establish a confidence and chemistry with your teammates.
The entire team fought very hard in that Kansas game for 35 minutes but when it came down to crunch time, they didn’t play their best on a few possessions and Kansas capitalized… game, set, match. You can watch the post game interviews if you want to relive the pain (Inside Carolina – post game interviews).
The Heels will look very different next year. I would say Henson and Barnes are gone for sure. Chances are that Marshall will leave as well and with the late season surge of McAdoo… who knows if he will make the jump. In terms of freshman, we have Marcus Paige (6-0 160), Joel James (6-10 280), Brice Johnson (6-9 200), and JP Tokoto (6-5 180) coming in and look to be a solid recruiting class. Even though the season ended with disappointment, it was still as successful year and there is much to be proud of. Here are some of my highlights to help us all remember why it is good to be a TarHeel!
- 32-6 record
- Stomping Duke on their home court & spoiling Senior night
- ACC Regular Season Champions (much more prestigious than a conference tournament championship)
- They played on an aircraft carrier – with tarheel blue camo unis!
- Nike Hyper-Elite uniforms vs Maryland
- I got to see this squad in person during the Las Vegas Invitational – not the outcome I was expecting but still great to see them in person.
- Tyler Zeller – named 2012 John R. Wooden Award All-America Team, ACC 2012 Player of the Year, AP Second Team All-American. Earlier in the season I felt Z wasn’t playing tough enough but that definitely changed as the season went on. Very lucky to have him at UNC for four years and a great example.
- Kendall Marshall – AP Third Team All-American, Second Team All ACC, the best single-season passing performance in ACC history. Such a fun player to watch distribute the ball and as the season progressed, start to knock down shots. I even enjoyed watching his dad and sisters root him on during the games.
- Harrison Barnes – First team All ACC. I’m not going to throw Barnes under the bus. There is so much pressure put on him to be the next Kobe or Lebron, let’s just let him be Harrison. He did at times seem to disappear but when he get’s going, it is fun to watch. He won many games for us throughout the year. We just hoped he would have a better game against Kansas but I’m sure he feels much worse than we do.
- John Henson – First team All ACC. That jumper of his came along very nicely and had 101 blocks on the year. He played tough down the stretch with his injuries. Repeat member of the All ACC Defensive team. Very fun player to watch.
- Reggie Bullock – Key contributor and made some big shots, also played good D. He really stepped up when Dexter went down.
- PJ Hairston: started the year off scorching the nets from downtown but I believe the injuries he played through messed up his rhythm. We saw his % decline as the season progressed but he is strong and will bounce back next year. He is still a nice dunker though.
- James Michael McAdoo: started the year off shaky but as the season progressed, we started to see that special player. His denials and steals at the top of the key, which lead to fast break dunks, were a joy to watch… and Charles Barkley thinks he is the most talented player on the team… so he has that going for him.
- Stillman White: Perhaps Stillman was thrust into the spotlight to bring attention to his mission plans – I bet he will see fewer slammed doors if he goes state-side. Not sure if he will have a place on the team when he finishes his mission but I appreciate his example and playing hard when his number was called… great story.