Duke 62 North Carolina 57
Average. Simply average. There’s no need to do a full analysis of the game and box score. It’s all been said multiple times this season. Average. This is not a highly negative comment on the current North Carolina basketball team. Just the truth.
The only fact that you need to know in understanding why UNC lost to Duke on Saturday is that Duke has improved as a team from November to March. UNC has not. The inconsistency in knowing which players will be “on” and make in-game adjustments has been too much for this group to figure out.
How they did
While Armando Bacot has played most of the season like someone in line for post-season recognition, he has been less consistent in the last quarter of the season. That struggle was evident Saturday as he failed to rebound or score with ease and had trouble when double-teamed. Still, he gave a spirited performance while facing two defenders most of the game when the ball was in his hands.
– RJ Davis was mostly RJ Davis. His box score was stacked all the way across, and his defense and court presence were what they needed to be.
– Leaky Black’s defense was as advertised. His offensive stat line was not pretty but give credit to Duke’s interior defense. Black was also forced into multiple desperation shots as the play-clock expired when the offense stalled. Again, credit Dukes defense, but recognize that this was also the result of poor ball movement, and too much dribbling.
– Special recognition to Dontrez Styles. He provided valuable minutes defensively as the team struggled with foul trouble in the first half but did not have an opportunity to play later in the game.
– Caleb Love and Pete Nance mostly faded in this contest. If not for the fluorescent green shoes that Love wore, and an occasional rushed shot, we might have forgotten that he was in the game. Just not good enough. And after three games of talking about Lemon Oreos linked to better offensive performance, Nance mostly disappeared when UNC had the ball. Nance’s defense was mostly good enough, but he should be past expectations of getting assistance from officials (in his favor). I understand the frustration, but it’s not going to happen.
A few years ago, Michael Jordan confused many when he said “The ceiling is the roof!” Has this team already reached its ceiling? North Carolina’s overall record is not substantially different to many of the teams that are projected to be comfortably in the NCAA tournament field. Yes, the NET is a metric that gets a lot of attention, but it too has flaws. As it stands, UNC is the team with the highest NET (47) that is trending towards not receiving a bid to this year’s NCAA tournament. Way too much emphasis has been put on the lofty ranking that the Tar Heels started the season with. Far less is said about UNC’s actual schedule, parity throughout the country, and the better than given credit ACC league season. North Carolina’s goal for the season was to “Run it Back.” Return to the Final Four and finish the season with a championship. No one imagined it would play out this way. The resume is what it is. The opportunity to audition in up to four games to get a chance at running it back is on the table. This team has been very good one game and hardly recognizable the next game. When this team plays good defense, goes in out and moves the ball on offense to take smart shots, and limits turnovers, no one is better. There is no extra credit for last year and sometimes being as good as you can be. Now is the time to show what you are capable of.