Thursday, January 21, 2010

North Carolina No Longer Loom a Threat in College Hoops

If there are outrageous vibes wondering inside the minds of committed basketball lords on Tobacco Road and near Chapel Hill, it’s for all the unforeseen transitions ensuing among an elite program.

The North Carolina Tar Heels reached a point of frailty, in what has finally turned into reality, any time a talented class with competitive depth and zest departs to the NBA.

During a year of plights, what we’re watching is an underachieving program, but looking on the bright side a program with potential. In the meantime, North Carolina isn’t excelling as a team of defending champs, suffering rare defeats and being humiliated on their home floor in front of a zealous crowd.

These days, supportive residence and students are curious, even worried about the sudden relapses and flaws that don’t epitomize the history of Tar Heels basketball.

It’s a majestic program that has produced NBA stars, cultivated high school prospects, won five national titles, preserved 18 Final Four appearances, and amassed 43 ACC Championships.

But this is no longer the invincible or elite academic and athletic college we once knew, lacking much growth and experience to be equivalent to the powerhouse class of college hoops a year ago.

As the Tar Heels are facing a bizarre and abnormal stage, it’s good realizing no program is ensured of persistent legitimacy, though nostalgia marks solidity and grandeur forever. Because of blemishes and the derailing of a famous school that qualifies and dances in March Madness, gathering a clear perception that the (12-7, 1-3) Tar Heels are no longer villains or looms as a threat amid the NCAA tourney is thinking logical.

It’s a rarity when Carolina misses out on the Madness, and instead qualifies for the NIT—the National Inferior Tournament, I might add. That’s a path the Tar Heels are on, if they continue to shoot the ball poorly, miss ill-advised three-pointers and fail to protect the perimeter. As a result, Carolina has lost miserably in four of their last five games and plunged to No. 24, the lowest ranking in the Associated Press Top 25 since 2006.

Not much has changed on the coaching roster, the folksy head coach Roy Williams is there, and still coaches by his standard. His customary standards are, thoroughly, teaching the rhythmic of the game.

But of late he hasn’t been the popular coach in college hoops, as most of the attention has turned to schools like Clemson or Kentucky, programs that have climbed to the top of the basketball polls. Before we had tremendous respect for Carolina, a team that never backed down, a team opponents were afraid of because of their dominance.

But now no team is intimidated of overpowering a young and inexperienced program, of course guided by Williams, whose resume consists of a 2003 national title loss at Kansas. Not long following his departure, he was scolded for wearing a Jayhawks button after they had smothered the Tar Heels.

In 2009, his national title win defied excellence among one of the greatest classes in Carolina history. Minus the savvy ingredients, the Tar Heels are depleted and futile.

The loss of Tyler Hansbrough, Ty Lawson, Wayne Ellington, and Danny Green is unfortunate and omitted the brand name as vulnerability has enlarged unbelievably.

It’s portrayed as a helpless school and hopes to rise back to the top, even though Ellington was a jump shooting machine and Lawson was a floor general and directed traffic with his incredible play-making and smarts to maneuver an up-tempo style as his speed created advantages.

But more intimidating was the interior game of Hansbrough, whose upper body strength couldn’t be stopped. So for a program that relied much on his inside presence, Hansbrough is missed greatly for the post presence, ability to rebound and startle all opponents in the middle.

Most were unsuccessful defending the dominant force inside, leading all of college basketball a year ago, which makes lots of sense on why he was given the name Psycho-T. If generous enough to acknowledge his achievements, he broke the all-time ACC scoring record. And his ability to produce points was an integral feature.

Nonetheless, every team must experience up and down transitions to rebuild into the legitimate contender. That’s exactly what the Tar Heels are dealing with.

And wouldn’t it happen to be the longest losing streak since dropping five straight under Matt Doherty in 2002-03. The latest loss came against Wake Forest at home, where the Tar Heels were embarrassed but braced by the crowd, dressed in Carolina Blue.

Many still believe, but time is running short. Time is continuously ticking, as the madness looms ever so closer. If there is hope left, they have to move forward and forget about a demoralizing 82-69 loss to the Demon Deacons on Wednesday night, a pounding that will either make or break down the Tar Heels.

In retrospect, Carolina is sluggish at the guard position and struggles greatly, ever since Lawson and Ellington left early for an upstart.

During their regimen, no weaknesses were signs of innovations, but seeing all the flaws at a significance position is a problem in their back court and needs to be upgraded. Will Graves is flexible and finesse, but not quick enough. Larry Drew is good, but not great. Tyler Zeller is banged up. And, well, Ed Davis isn’t at full strength.

This season the Tar Heels are being outraced, a weakness Wake Forest exploited constantly and outplayed them in the transition game. Each moment reveals a scare in a program that has suddenly dwindled.

And with the exception of arising ACC schools, Carolina isn’t even a favorite to clinch the ACC title. Not when there’s Clemson and Georgia Tech, two power conference teams that have already caused trouble for a languishing program we once knew as defending champs.

Nobody fears the title of defending champs. Nobody sees the Tar Heels as a threat.