Most disappointing season of my life

Most disappointing season of my life
March 07
13:23 2023

Following an improbable run to the championship game last season, the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill men’s basketball team came into the season as the consensus No. 1 team in the nation. As we inch closer to the NCAA tournament, the Tar Heels are on the verge of making history as the first preseason No. 1 team to not make the tournament since the field expanded to 64 teams in 1985.

Coming into the season there was so much optimism and hope after the Tar Heels finished as the nation’s runner up last season and returned all but one starter from that team. Carolina also inserted what was supposed to be a prized transfer in Pete Nance, along with three top 100 freshmen into their program. All of those positives for the Heels warranted the No. 1 ranking in the preseason AP poll.

In a short few months, the Tar Heels have fallen from the No. 1 ranking all the way out of the top 25, to now being on the bubble. They are currently 18-11 on the season and are 10-8 in conference play at the time this article was written.

I actually saw this as a possible outcome even after the Heels started the season 5-0. There were too many inconsistencies that I noticed during that early part of the season. Even though they were winning, they were not winning pretty.  

I began to get worried about the Tar Heels after the fourth game of the season and I predicted that they would struggle to make the tournament if they continued to play that way. I actually wrote an article about it, but deep down I was hoping it did not come to fruition as I’m a Carolina fan. Unfortunately, I was not wrong.

Games against Gardner-Webb, James Madison and Portland were way too close for comfort and I knew once they matched up against quality conference and non-conference competition, things could get bad for the Tar Heels.

The thing that concerned me the most was the fact that this Carolina team was a veteran team with juniors and seniors, and they were playing like freshmen that have never played before. I expected this team to come out of the gates and establish their dominance against lesser opponents from the tip and they could not do that.

Another cause for concern was the apparent lack of identity. Everyone knows this team goes as Armando Bacot goes. There were many times where the team would go away from Bacot and start jacking up three-point shots or contested jump shots instead of feeding Bacot. Bacot is one of the few back-to-the-basket post players left in the game and he is difficult to defend.

After struggling through those first five wins, the Tar Heels went on a four-game losing streak against some quality competition. That was when the alarm bells really started to ring in my head. Carolina had a chance to win several of those games but could not close when it counted most. After a couple of losses at the start of conference play, the Heels were out of the top 25 altogether.  

The start of the new year brought a roller coaster ride in conference play. Carolina never had a bad loss, however, they lost several games they should have won by floundering down the stretch. Games against UVA, Wake Forest and Miami all were frustrating losses for Tar Heel fans and if they had won those games, they would be in a much better position right now, especially since they don’t have any Quad 1 wins on the season.

The play of Caleb Love has been a head scratcher as well this season. Love was one of the most inconsistent shooters his freshman and sophomore year. I thought his stellar play during the NCAA tournament would push him toward having a breakout junior season. Unfortunately for the Heels and their fans, Love has continued his questionable and streaky shooting.

When Love is hot, he’s one of the best in college basketball. When he is off, he is one of the worst shooters in the country, and that’s the major problem. Love has a fascination with taking tough and unnecessary shots and at the wrong time. In my time as a Carolina fan, he has the greenest light to shoot of any player I have ever seen.

Love’s poor shot selection has directly led to some of the losses the Tar Heels have suffered this year. Instead of feeding the ball to Bacot, Love routinely decides to shoot contested shots or 30-foot three-point shots and it’s frustrating to watch.  

If Love can control his game by having a better shot selection as he did in last year’s NCAA tournament, the Heels have a chance to make a late push and an actual run in the Big Dance this season. I am just afraid that it may be a little too late for that to happen.

Pete Nance, the graduate transfer, has not lived up to his preseason hype either. Nance was supposed to fill the shoes of Brady Manek, who was the Heels lone departure from the starting lineup from last season. To say that Nance has not lived up to expectations would be an understatement. He hasn’t been horrible, but hasn/t been as good as advertised. Injuries and inconsistent play have been the story for him this season.

The lack of adjustments has been alarming from head coach Hubert Davis as well.  It seems that when the team gets stuck in a rut offensively or is getting exposed defensively, there are little to no adjustments made to correct the problem. This team is much too experienced to not take in-game coaching and implement that on the court.  

Thankfully, as I was writing this article, the Heels were putting together one of their better performances of the year against No. 6 ranked Virginia. The Heels shared the ball, shot it well and tried to get Bacot the ball all game. They also locked in defensively and gave them their first Quad 1 win of the year.

This victory just shows what this team is capable of when they play up to their potential. If they can carry this momentum into their games against Florida State and Duke to finish the regular season, it could mean a deep run in the ACC tournament, which will all but guarantee an NCAA tournament berth. Only time will tell.

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Timothy Ramsey

Timothy Ramsey

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