It’s unreasonable to expect a team to go all the way through the grind of a college basketball season and win every game they play. We know going in that it’s just not going to happen, but yet we get upset at every loss. That just how passionate we as fans are. Players and coaches are the same way. The Tar Heels waltzed into their second round Maui Invitational game against Butler on Tuesday night fresh off of a 95-49 whooping over Mississippi State. You could tell during the warm ups that confidence was high. The Heels were 4-0 on the young season and had just played a game almost proved that the young team was deserving of its #9 ranking. The players were confident they were going to win this game, Roy Williams and his staff felt confident in their game plan, but in the end, they were not prepared for what was to come.
The Butler Bulldogs came out and hit Carolina right in the mouth. From the opening tip, the Heels were out matched, out played and out coached in every phase of the game. Butler was more physical, more aggressive and just out hustle the Heels in the early minutes and made the Tar Heels pay on both ends of the floor. The blow proved to be too much to recover from. The young Tar Heels looked perplexed and lost. Each player seemed timid and showed lack of confidence on the offensive end. Everyone was concentrating so hard on not further contributing to the mess and by doing so, they threw themselves even further out of sync. The shooters weren’t working to get open and when they were, they wouldn’t take the shot. James Michael McAdoo was getting pushed around down low like a middle school kid trying to play with the high schoolers. Carolina limped into the half down 17 and limited to only 18 points of offense. We were about to find out how tough this young and exposed team really was.
It was a different story in the second half. It was like one day we were scolding a child for breaking an expensive vase and in a blink of an eye we were proud parents at college graduation. The young team grew up before our very eyes. Losing a game is difficult, but when a team dependent on four freshmen and a sophomore to carry the load, it comes with the territory. How they handled the adversity was as a veteran team would.
Butler at one point had the Heels down 29 points with close to 16 minutes left in regulation. Shots weren’t falling and things were not going Carolina’s way, but they didn’t quit nor did Roy quit on them. He gathered his troops for one final push to make it game and his team obliged. From 29 the deficit reduced to 19. Then to 15, 12, 10, now it’s down to six! What is going on?! This Carolina team isn’t supposed to play this tough against such a huge wall. This Carolina team is supposed to quit and figure it out for the next game. This Carolina team is supposed to lose their composure during their first loss as a unit. However, this Carolina team did not do those things. This Carolina team wanted to fight and prove they were not immature. This Carolina team grew.
Losses will be a part of the season for the Heels. It’s inevitable. However, this team seems hungry and willing to come together and grow from their adversity and that should make us proud. At the beginning of the season, people were wondering if this team would compare to 2010 and fall into obscurity. Even during this loss, even to a team they should have beaten, they proved to me that they will take the growing pains in stride and take any thoughts of 2010 out of the equation. The real test comes next week when the Heels travel to play the Indiana Hoosiers.