The Difference Between This Team and the Champions of 05 and 09


I often get asked the question, how does this North Carolina Tar Heels team compare to the national championship teams of 2005 and 2009?  The similarities stack up when you compare these teams on the surface.  The fine details that separate them make for endless debate amongst Tar Heel Nation of who’s better or who would win in a face off of champions.  All three teams, loaded with NBA first round talent.  All three teams with ACC POY winners and national POY candidates.  All three teams with the pressure to win it all from the gate.  All three teams with great point guard play, a star perimeter player or two and gutsy big men who run the floor like guards.  All three with Roy Williams screaming at them from the sideline even when they are up 20 with two minutes left in a regular season game.

One of the biggest things I love about Roy and Carolina is how similar his teams are.  You can count on having an absolute minimum of four to five NBA players on the team at all times.  Roy always recruits well and mixes in players with 1-2 year expected careers and four year guys like Tyler Hansbrough and Tyler Zeller.  You know the big men are going to be crazy athletic and be able to run their opponents out of the gym.  You know the PG is going to be quick, a great ball handler and leader of the UNC offense.  And you know Roy’s going to recruit a sharp shooter or two to play beside his superstar wing (although this years guys have stunk it up a little).

The differences are small but I wanted to talk about three in particular.  I think this Carolina team has as good of a chance as any team in the nation at cutting down the nets in New Orleans.  Still the team has some hurdles to get over before they can climb that ladder.

Killer Instinct, it’s obvious the 05 and 09 teams had that killer instinct.  Remember the confidence, the strut that the 05 team walked around with?  Rashad McCants, Sean May, Raymond Felton, that team knew they were good and they were playing hard and determined all year after the embarrassment they went through under the coach I will not name.  And the 09 team, Tyler Hansbrough basically is killer instinct.  That guy makes his teammates competitive, I’m not even sure if it’s good for him health wise in the long run to be honest.  This team, jury’s still out on that one.  They haven’t punched many teams in the face this season.  Now that’s being picking I understand but come on I’m writing about the Tar Heels every single day, picking is what I must do.  Anyway, the Duke game proved a lot, this is a talented team, even with a couple of key injuries this team can stomp people.  Early in the season, way before they reached their peak they came very close to beating an awesome Kentucky team.  The reality is UNC is two buckets (or FTs just saying) away from being a two loss team.  But far too often this year the Tar Heels fell asleep and let far less talented teams hang around for way too long and it cost them at least one game (UNLV).  UNC has had a great stretch of games starting with blowing out Duke to capture the conference regular season title.  Two nice, resilient wins in the tourney so far, a win away from a #1 seed in the big dance they are in position.  But even steeper challenges lie ahead, brighter lights, better teams and bigger stakes.  The need not just one player, but several players to step up and show that killer instinct.

Bench play, not to blame the injury bug or whine here.  But this team got robbed of what would have been a crazy deep rotation on the perimeter when Dexter Strickland and Leslie McDonald went down to season ending injuries.  It was supposed to be, one of those two starting, the other coming off the bench with Bullock and Hairston.  Down to just the latter of the two, and one struggling badly has depleted the scoring off the bench.  Not helping matters has been the slow transition of another freshman James Michael McAdoo.  McAdoo was supposed to be this years Marvin Williams or Ed Davis.  The big man off the bench that gave us 20 minutes a night and 8-10 points, 4-6 boards and tough minutes off the pine.  He instead struggled with the transition and his new role.  He has started to play pretty well as of late and is giving solid minutes off the bench.  I recently predicted a breakout game for McAdoo coming soon.  If that happens and he can be counted on in the NCAA Tournament, UNC is a much more dangerous team.

Three point shooting, you can’t blame Roy here.  This roster is definitely supposed to be a good three point shooting team.  Reggie Bullock and PJ Hairston were known as sharp shooters in high school.  Bullock has been ok but still hasn’t reached his potential in his first full season after an injury his freshman year.  And Hairston has struggled the point that he’s the last player you want to see shoot the ball.  Leslie McDonald is injured and suddenly this is a weak three point shooting team.  The monkey wrench in the whole thing though and something that would frustrate me as an oppossing coach is that UNC could theoretically light it up from deep at any time.  It’s not that head scratching to imagine Harrison Barnes, Bullock and Hairston all getting hot at the same time with Marshall hitting a three or two the way he’s shooting lately.  That team would be deadly beyond belief, the nations top scoring team with an added outside weapon, wow is the only way to put it.   The title teams of 05 and 09 both had those big time shooters.  Wayne Ellington, Danny Green and Ty Lawson were all excellent three point shooters.  McCants and Felton could knock it down consistently and stretched the defense effectively in 05 almost as well.  This Tar Heel team doesn’t need to become Duke and shoot a ton of threes but they could really use a consistent threat and the help of a few threes every single game.

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