Are the Carolina Tar Heels College Basketballs Miami Heat?


An odd thought came across me today when I was pondering the Tar Heels team chemistry.  I usually don’t like to compare pro and college teams to one another.  The pro game is too different from the college game and the conversation is usually hot air.  What makes this different is that I’m not going to make a traditional comparison today.  I won’t be comparing Lebron James to Harrison Barnes or John Henson to Chris Bosh, that’s not the point here.  Today I want to talk about team chemistry and the importance of knowing and playing within your role.  Both this years Tar Heels and last seasons Miami Heat teams are alike in that respect.

Many teams throughout sports history have been made up of a collection of superstars.  The early New York Yankees had so much talent on the field at once the entire team could take up a win at the Hall of Fame.  The Los Angeles Lakes have had several teams in their history with several HOFs playing together.   Then you have the USA Dream Team (the real one, not the ones you have to worry about losing.  I’m talking Michael, Magic, Larry in 92).  In some cases these teams have achieved great success, in others they have failed to build chemistry and don’t live up to expectations.

Last season the Miami Heat were the toast of the NBA.  Lebron James and Chris Bosh, decided to join fellow superstar Dwayne Wade in Miami.  Each taking “less money” (with no FL income tax it equals out, trust me) to play with one another and achieve championship success.  What does all this have to do with the North Carolina Tar Heels?  Free Agency is similar to recruiting, in this case, the players took “less money” (yes I’m putting it in “” again).  In Carolinas case, several four and five star recruits that could have gone to almost any other school in the nation and received more playing time and been more of a focus.  But they chose Chapel Hill, just like those guys chose South Beach.

If only college basketball were as simple as PS3 or Xbox where throwing the best players together always works like a charm.  In the real sports world, building chemistry takes time.  But even more importantly, altering ones role takes even more time.  Think about it this way: Harrison Barnes, Kendall Marshall, Reggie Bullock, Tyler Zeller, John Henson, James Michael McAdoo, and PJ Hairston were all big time high school recruits.  And probably only Marshall is playing close to the same role as he did in his HS days.  As for the rest, they need to learn to adapt their games.  Even the stars of the team or the “big 4” need to adjust with so many stars around them at UNC.

Players such as Bullock and Hairston need to learn to play without the ball considerably more than they have their entire lives.  McAdoo is used to not only being the best player on his team, he’s used to being the most dominating force in the paint every time he steps onto the floor.   Now imagine adjusting from that to being the third big man in the rotation, coming off the bench, playing anywhere from 10-18 minutes per night.  How often do you think McAdoo is the #1 option coming down the floor?  Same goes for Hairston, while he hasn’t been shy shooting the ball, he’s obviously going through his own struggles adapting his game.

This Tar Heel team is full of talent, maybe tops in the country.  But talent doesn’t win championships, talent playing together as one unit understanding one’s role and executing as one wins championships.  Despite the heart breaking loss to Duke on Wednesday night, Carolina has been playing better basketball since FSU taught them the lesson of a lifetime in Tallahassee.  Still, Roy Williams has to take his team a long way in the next month for them to be ready to dance in March.
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