Northwestern Wins: A College Hoops Blog

An ode to Verne Lundquist’s calls and everything college basketball

Chase For Perfection: UNC Tar Heels

Posted by Zach on October 14, 2008

Unlike past Octobers, there is no debate over who should be deemed the preseason #1 team in the nation. In a near consensus for anyone with their head screwed on properly, North Carolina takes the honor.

Most major programs in BCS conferences would kill to have just three or four players on North Carolina’s roster for their own squad. Never before in my short life following college basketball can I recall a team so loaded in every capacity of the game. They tout the reigning national player of the year Tyler Hansbrough, a dominant power forward in Deon Thompson, the best sixth man in the country in Danny Green and two top-15 recruits in Ed Davis and Tyler Zeller. And that’s just the frontcourt. Don’t forget about the best guard duo in the nation- Ty Lawson and Wayne Ellington- to go along with former starter and pinpoint shooter Bobby Frasor and, you guessed it, another five-star recruit in Larry Drew. It’s simply unfair.

For a college basketball team so completely stacked, the one question remains: can they do it?

And by do it, I mean finish the regular season undefeated. People thought going 16-0 in the NFL was a near impossibility until the Patriots pulled it off. It’s not out of the realm of possibility that this North Carolina team finishes the regular season with a perfect record. Not when I look at that roster.

Here are some of the roadblocks that UNC might run into on their path to immortality in 2008-09. Since college basketball is so damn unpredictable, this may be a futile exercise (anyone remember a certain Maryland team going into Chapel Hill and stunning these Heels?), but I figure this roster is so talented, a stunning upset at the hands of, say, Boston College or Virginia Tech will likely be avoided.

11/15 vs. Pennsylvania

Don’t underestimate the Quakers. This team can play with anyone in the country.

(Kidding, of course. Just wanted to see if you were still paying attention.)

11/26 vs. Texas/Notre Dame (Maui Invitational)

This is the second stiffest non-conference test for the Heels. They’ll face either a Texas team led by A.J. Abrams, Damion James and Justin Mason or a Notre Dame team with the dynamic inside-outside duo of Harangody and McAlarney. Notre Dame could give them the toughest test if Harangody handles Hansbrough and cancels out North Carolina’s best player. Tory Jackson can also match the speed of Ty Lawson. On the other hand, UNC can put up 100 points on Notre Dame’s often lackluster defense. Both of these finals could be classics, but it’s hard to say either of these teams are great matchups against the Tar Heels, especially on a neutral court.

12/3 @ Michigan State (Detroit)

North Carolina and Michigan State, the respective favorites in each of their conferences, were pitted to face off in the ACC-Big Ten challenge this season. Michigan State will enjoy a home-court feel with the game in Detroit, although the spacious facility (to say the least) may prove any sort of Spartan advantage moot. This game matches the quickest guards in the country, Kalin Lucas and Ty Lawson. Also, with Ginyard injured, Raymar Morgan may have a breakout performance. Still, who is guarding Hansbrough? Freshman Delvon Roe? Goran Suton? I don’t think so. Michigan State will test UNC but falter in the end.

1/11 @ Wake Forest

If everything comes together quickly for the youthful Demon Deacons, they could challenge North Carolina. Wake would need to perform like they did against Duke at home last season. That means depending on their stout freshmen and sophomores for a near-perfect performance. I wouldn’t count on it all coming together against Carolina, even at home and even relatively early in the conference season when Roy Williams may not know the Wake freshman so well. This is a definite test, though.

2/11 @ Duke

As much as the Cameron Crazies would give their future first-born to defeat undefeated North Carolina in Durham and end their undefeated ride (or beat them with one or two losses, like it matters), I don’t feel Duke matches up well with North Carolina at all. Unless Paulus, Singler and Scheyer put on a show from behind the arc like they showed they’re capable of back in Chapel Hill last season, you’ll see this contest finish more similarly to the game in Cameron. Lance Thomas and Brian Zoubek are way too soft to handle Hansbrough and Thompson, so they’d have to win in a shootout, which I don’t see happening.

2/15 @ Miami

Miami, usually reserved for the middle ranks of the ACC, are contenders for a second place finish this season. Led by one of the top players in the nation in Jack McClinton and freshman stud Dequan Jones, the Canes have a chance. The depth of the Heels is the difference and the ultimate reason why they’ll take care of Miami.

So, what do you readers think: Which game poses the biggest threat to North Carolina? If I had to choose one loss, I’d say the Spartans. But in the end, my inclination remains that UNC does not lose this season.

The NCAA Tournament? That’s a whole different story.

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11 Responses to “Chase For Perfection: UNC Tar Heels”

  1. Jeremy said

    Great write up and I love the site. I agree with you that MI State could be a big threat. However, if history has taught us anything with UNC is that the rival game with Duke is usually the key. It seems whenever one team is the pick to win something always happens to break that. If UNC can get to Cameron without a loss I will be very happy but will also be more worried about that game. Besides, I reufse to use that “U” word until it happens. At that point I plan to use it alot!

  2. Zach said

    Thanks for the kind words, Jeremy. Tell your UNC friends about the site. I’ll probably be ballwashing the Heels the entire winter.

  3. Patrick said

    I say at Georgia Tech, honestly, they get so many fans and you they hosted the SEC tournament when the roof blew open, so if your Hindu like me you’d agree karma is on their side.

  4. Tommy said

    As I look through these match-ups then one that really caught my eye was @ Wake. The game in Cameron is obviously a huge one, but the game in Winston Salem is going to be the first real road test (unless you want to count @ Nevada) for the Tar Heels and Wake always plays well at home, not to mention they can match up with UNC’s speed with Teague and Smith.

  5. Zach said

    They play very well at home. That Duke game last year was the first thing that popped into my head when I began writing the Wake section. I actually think they have a better chance to beat UNC than Duke does. Can I defend this? Not really. But…yeah.

  6. Jeremy said

    Yeah Zach I will let them all know. During the tourney last year I did a running diary also for all the games that I watched. I had alot of people from work and stuff that checked it out so I will let them all know also. Great site! You guys do a great job. Did you see the news that Texas and UNC are working on a deal to play a game at the new Texas Stadium? They are working on a four game deal to play one there, one at another netural site and then one each at each teams venues. Should be a good matchup with the class UT has coming in next season as well as the one UNC has.

  7. Phil said

    If Vt beats UNC i dont think it will be a stunning lose. They play each other at the end of the season at VT and i look for that game to be a VT win.

    UNC does have a sick lineup but they have had that before and lost in the 2nd round of the NCAA tourney. I would rather lose 5 games in a season and win the National Championship than got undefeated in regular season play.

  8. Zach said

    Absolutely Phil. Believe me, I’m a Patriots fan, I can relate. Looking back I wish we had lost that game against the Ravens and removed some of that pressure in the playoffs.

    You expect VT to beat UNC in Blacksburg? It’s a tough place to play, but you expect this? Really? And this UNC lineup is more talented, deep and explosive than any of the Roy Williams Era, including the national championship team w/ May, Felton, etc. If they do pull it off, like the Pats, the pressure would be enormous for these kids in the NCAA.

  9. Ryan said

    The Ford Field atmosphere will be off the hook when UNC visits. MSU fans are a loud bunch that will have Ford Field rocking. Blow out could be to strong off prediction but I wouldn’t be surprised if MSU takes them by double digits. This will be good for UNC, it’s basically a Final Four type game in December. UNC will likely return to Ford Field in April, so the experience will be exceptionally helpful.

  10. [...] Can North Carolina run the table?- Zach wrote a previous post that centered around this question, and there is no doubt that if any team is going to be able to [...]

  11. North Carolina is definitely a consistent team. Of course with very high-level players. I think the question is asked again and again and I think so far the team has managed to do very well your work. I think that they can continue undefeated ..

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