The wild roller coaster ride known as the 2013-2014 basketball season has come to an end for the North Carolina Tar Heels. Even though Carolina’s season ended in disappointment, there were several bright spots throughout the year. With that being said, here’s a few things I’ve learned from watching this squad over the last 5+ months.
Marcus Paige is a superstar: Coming into the season, #5 was supposed to be a key part of the team but not necessarily the guy. But with the absence of P.J. Hairston, it was apparent from the first game that this was Marcus Paige’s team. He led this squad in points and assists, he made clutch shots almost every time the Heels needed one and most importantly, Marcus proved to be the leader this bunch needed. Paige’s silky smooth left-handed stroke kept Carolina in several games and his cool demeanor rubbed off on his teammates, keeping them from panicking when games got tight. Tar Heel fans couldn’t have asked for more from this young man. He gave 100 percent of himself to this team and this season. Marcus proved without any shadow of a doubt that he’s a superstar and that the future is bright in Chapel Hill.
The lack of consistency killed this team: The season ended on a sour note no doubt. But if you’re being honest, the 2nd half of the 3rd round NCAA Tournament loss to Iowa State was a microcosm of the 2013-2014 season. Basically, the only consistent thing about this team was that they were inconsistent. It became a total crapshoot trying to predict how this team would perform on a game to game basis. When it seemed as if Carolina had find itself offensively, all of a sudden they would make a mistake or two and would revert to that up and down offensive team. Same scenario with the D. At times, UNC proved to be a pretty good defensive squad. But they also had those moments when they couldn’t guard anyone. The inconsistencies on both ends of the court was the ultimate downfall of this team, and the main reason Carolina isn’t headed to New York City for the Sweet 16.
Roy Williams still has it: Some Tar Heel fans haven’t been happy with Ol” Roy over the last couple of seasons. Whether it’s been his misses on the recruiting trail or his lack of in-game adjustments, some have wondered out loud if Coach Williams had any gas left in the tank. Well I’m here to tell any naysayers that he has plenty left. First of all, Roy deserves kudos for holding this team together and not allowing a repeat of the 2009-2010 debacle.Secondly, Ol’Roy took a group of players who really didn’t fit together (minus P.J. Hairston) and lead them to a decent season. With all the issues that surrounded these Tar Heels – 24 wins, finishing tied for third in the ACC and winning a NCAA Tournament game isn’t all that bad. With the passion he exhibited on the sideline this season and a great recruiting class coming in… I think it’s safe to say that Ol’Roy is still one of the top coaches in America.
This team never really played “Carolina Basketball”:When watching this team all season, it was clear that this bunch of Tar Heels just didn’t play the way most Roy Williams coached teams play. This group never truly got it’s transition game going and that held them back. With the lack of outside shooting and a fast break game, UNC was forced to play a style that they were less comfortable with. They had to slow the game down, something the Carolina faithful wasn’t used to. Defensively, this team looked different as well. Ever since Roy came home, his squads have been primarily man to man. Well this season the Heels used several versions of the zone defense. Once again Coach Williams should get some love for realizing that this team had problems in the man to man D. In fact, UNC won a couple of games using the zone (most notably defeating Duke), but it never looked or felt like Carolina basketball. Even though Roy did what was best for this particular team, a return to fast paced basketball and man to man defense is for the best moving forward.
Next season the Tar Heels will be elite: I know it’s hard to think about it right now just a few days removed from a heart breaking, season ending loss. But the Tar Heels will be motivated by how the season ended. And that’s bad news for the rest of college basketball. With a chip on the returning players collective shoulders as well their improved games and not to mention the super freshman class – all of those factors combined should lead to UNC becoming an elite team. The “old guys” should be much better all around players and a lot more seasoned. This group showed its toughness all season long and that trait will come in handy once again next season. The incoming freshmen don’t necessarily fix this teams main issue which is outside shooting. However, each of the guys coming in can make shots from the perimeter and just as important each of them can create for himself and teammates. When you add Berry,Jackson and Pinson to the hungry group returning to Chapel Hill… It will mean special things in 2014-2015.