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.