Since good teams don’t lose by 33 points under any circumstances, there’s no way to classify North Carolina a good basketball team these days.
Saturday’s 90-57 loss at Florida State changed everything about the Tar Heels, including the way they have to be assessed three games into ACC play.
Good teams lose, of course. That happens daily.
Connecticut won the NCAA title last season after dropping nine games in the middle of the schedule. But even in the midst of apparent full-blown nose dive, the Huskies managed to stay marginally close in games. The biggest losses were by 17 at St. John’s and by 15 at Louisville.
Dean Smith’s 1993 NCAA title team at Carolina lost successive games at Virginia (88-62) and at Wake Forest (81-67) in mid-season.
N.C. State lost 10 games en route to the 1983 title but none by more than 18 points.
Losses the size of the one Carolina absorbed in Tallahassee usually transcend the “just one game” or “fluke” clichés.
Good teams don’t always show up with their “A” game. But as Tiger Woods said a few months back, good golfers don’t have “Z” games. In other words, if you pull a “Z” performance, you’re either an average player having a bad day or just plain bad, period.
The same applies to basketball teams. Carolina showed the world a “Z” show in all respects Saturday. (For visual proof, here are 139 photos from the game.)
The Tar Heels obviously aren’t a bad team. But we know now they’re not a good one, either. That puts them squarely in the fair category. It defies logic, but that’s where they are on mid-January.
With so much talent and depth on the roster, the Heels have a fighting chance to make a 180-degree turn. If nothing else, the trip to Florida State provided Roy Williams and his players with an unmistakable reading on who they are.
How a team that easily should be among the nation’s two or three best has deteriorated into a 33-point victim to a very average opponent will have to be addressed by Williams, his assistants and the players.
Something has to be dreadfully wrong. More likely, several things fall into that category.
In a so-so conference, the Heels may yet be good enough to win the ACC regular season.
But there’s no way at the moment to still view this UNC team as a serious NCAA Final Four contender.