North Carolina looked like it could be the most dominant team of the decade entering the season.
Instead, the Tar Heels have lost twice already.
To help take a look at Carolina heading into Maryland’s game in Chapel Hill tomorrow night, I’ve asked Jack Daly of the Durham Herald-Sun (you can check out his work here) to answer a few questions. He’s graciously agreed to, and his take on the Tar Heels follows:
1. The season began with talk of an unbeaten year, so one curious development is the fact North Carolina has lost twice already. Is there anything else that stands out as surprising about a team that was as loaded as any in recent memory coming into the season?
JD: The loss to Boston College certainly surprised. But when you get down to it, this isn’t the North Carolina team that everybody was getting excited about heading into the season. It’s still very good, possible even good enough to win the national title. But no Marcus Ginyard and no Tyler Zeller have certainly changed the equation. What’s that done — and this might be the most surprising thing about the 2008-09 Tar Heels — is robbed the team of bench scoring.
If Marcus is healthy, Danny Green and his instant offense are coming off the bench. If Zeller doesn’t break his wrist, he’s probably in the top six or seven. Without them, Ed Davis is the only person who has given them anything off the bench. Against Virginia, UNC had all of six bench points. When you get down to it, it’s not a deep team.
2. How much has Marcus Ginyard’s absence hurt the Tar Heels, and how badly do they need him for the postseason?
JD: At this point, if there’s anybody that expects Ginyard to return this season, I haven’t talked to them. I’m in the camp that thinks Ginyard’s absence has crippled the Tar Heels in both of their losses. While Ginyard’s numbers aren’t the best, he’s UNC’s best defender, hands down, when healthy. Answer me this: Who is going to guard Duke’s Gerald Henderson next week for the Tar Heels?
The great thing about Ginyard is that he can defend a player like Henderson and a player like Jeff Teague, who absolutely maimed UNC in Winston-Salem. Without Ginyard and with Bobby Frasor struggling to regain the form of his first year, there’s not really a player in UNC’s rotation who is above-average defensively. Not only that, he’s the Tar Heels’ best leader, and leadership is something this team doesn’t have in spades. And UNC is probably better team with Green coming off the bench.
When you get down to it, UNC can still win the national title without Ginyard, but the Tar Heels are no longer a prohibitive favorite. His absence removes that sense of inevitability. The sense of inevitably wasn’t fair in the first place, but it was there, nonetheless.
3. Carolina has had all of three games decided by less than 15 points – the losses to Boston College and Wake Forest and last week’s thriller at Florida State. Can watching the Tar Heels night in and night out become monotonous, or do they find ways to keep things interesting?
JD: Are you suggesting it’s more interesting when head basketball coaches and associate ADs are feuding?
Coming into the season, there was a thought that UNC’s season was going to be dull until March, but it hasn’t worked out that way. Hansbrough’s injury, Ginyard’s injury, Hansbrough setting the UNC career scoring record, the Tar Heels tanking against Boston College and struggling against Wake Forest have given us scribes something to write about. This week’s games don’t look like the most exciting, but Maryland won at the Smith Center last year, so who knows? If that fails, Duke-UNC is in nine days.
Much thanks again to Jack Daly for lending his insight on the No. 3 Tar Heels.