Roy Williams isn't ashamed of the Tar Heels' schedule. ROBERT WILLETT
CHAPEL HILL — North Carolina has played nine games but what do we really know about the Tar Heels? They lost against Butler and Indiana, the two best teams they’ve played. And in the other seven games, all victories, UNC has rarely been challenged.
The Heels’ 78-55 victory against East Tennessee State was never in doubt, and it came more easily than even the 23-point final margin suggests. UNC looked good at times against ETSU, and the same could be said of the Heels in victories against UAB, Chaminade, Mississippi State and on and on.
UNC’s losses against Butler and Indiana exposed weaknesses. We learned something about the Tar Heels during each of those games. But UNC’s victories have imparted fewer lessons. I asked Roy Williams yesterday about how difficult it is to evaluate victories against inferior competition. Here’s the story.
And here’s Williams’ full answer:
“There is something to that, there’s no question about it. But you guys have heard me say it before – everybody wants you to play the Oklahoma City Thunder and then the Celtics and then the Lakers, who knows. Things like that. But you can’t because you’ve got to have your kids get some confidence. But I’m not ashamed of our schedule. I think – and I’ll emphasize the word think – that eight of the previous nine years we’ve been in the top 25 in the country, strength of schedule.
“And when we made the game with East Tennessee, they had four guys that were pretty doggone important to them that were on their team at that time. And I do get tired of people saying negative things about a team when they don’t know what the crap they’re talking about. But Mississippi State, same thing – when the agreement was made, we didn’t know what was going on. And Chaminade was in the tournament and we played them before. But you can still learn some things. You really can. The idea of getting a very – now I don’t know that you learn things if we’d had last year’s team. Because we were so experienced and so talented but when you’re inexperienced and hoping that the talent will show up at some point, I think you gain a great deal by playing, getting them out in front of somebody else.
“And, you know, again, people like to talk about schedules. I don’t worry about them. I mean, they thought it was why are you playing College of Charleston and who the crap’s Andrew Goudelock? Well Andrew Goudelock made a hell of a lot more money in the NBA than everybody that was criticizing those kinds of schedules. But you do put them in different scenarios that you can’t do in practice. So that helps you. You do put them in front of a crowd – that does help you. They’re trying to run things that the other team does not know what they’re doing like they do in practice, so that helps you.
“But you know, and again, I’ll go back and say again that you can’t play everybody like the Celtics. And I say it from experience, I know what the crap I’m talking about, regardless of what somebody else may say. One year we played Georgia and Indiana the first two games, and I lost two players for two months before I could get them to play worth a damn. And it’s just because they lost so much confidence in those two games. They were borderline shooters and Hugh Durham’s team and Bobby Knight’s team backed off of them. We’d be on one end shooting and the guys defending them would be at the concession stand. And so one guy shot an air ball, another guy missed three in a row. And we couldn’t get them to shoot the dadgum ball again until January.
“So I know what the crap I’m talking about there. But you do need to have some games where you get a little confidence. You do need some games where you challenge them. You do need some games where they’re going to play one style. And you do need some games where they’re going to play another style. So I do think that you still get some things. But again, when we scheduled them it was a different look that we thought we were going to get. I’m sure people that scheduled us a year ago didn’t think that Kendall Marshall would be in the NBA, either. But to answer, Andrew, I think you can get some things that you can’t get in practice. And yet we had a stretch there where it was a total, total mismatch. And I understood that.
“But you also challenge them to see if they can maintain that. Because that’s hard to do, as well.”
So there you have it: Williams’ (long) answer about what he’s taken from these victories against lesser opponents.