A belated three North Carolina-related things to consider on this Wednesday:
As I wrote about here in this story today, North Carolina players – or, really, anyone associated with the UNC basketball program – won’t soon forget the significance of “33.” Roy Williams wrote the number on a board inside the Tar Heels’ locker room to remind his players of the margin of defeat in their 90-57 loss at Florida State on Saturday.
What’s interesting to me, though, is that no one outside the team has spent too much time this week reflecting on that 33-point blowout. The topic of the week has been the final 14.2 seconds of the game, when Williams and most of his players and staff walked off the court to avoid the wild postgame celebratory scene in Tallahassee, Fla. Of course, five players – including three walk-ons – remained on the court for those final 14.2 seconds.
Williams spent nearly 12 minutes of his radio show on Monday night explaining how he could have left those players on the floor. I’ve written two stories about it and we had one more today here. It has been a popular topic on the local sports radio shows, and on Internet message boards. But you know what hasn’t been all that popular a topic: The actual blowout itself.
By the way, in case you missed it in the story above, here’s what Tyler Zeller had to say about walking off the court:
“That was the most embarrassing thing I’ve ever done in my life. Because it was to the point that I never thought I’d leave a game early because we’d lost by that much and they were going to storm the floor. It was something that I hope to never experience again.”
If you’ve been following the Tar Heels at all closely this season, you know that intensity has been an issue throughout. At times, the Heels seem content to go through the motions. That was the case on Saturday at Florida State, which was by far the more intense and aggressive team.
UNC never responded.
I asked Zeller yesterday if it’d be fair to say that the Tar Heels are an angry group right now. He said:
“Usually we’re very [laidback] – we’re laughing, having a good time. But nobody really said anything [after the Florida State loss]. Everybody was very quiet. And I think it was something was impactful to all of us. And hopefully we use it to drive us in the right direction.”
You’d hope. Sometimes, a team that’s not naturally intense – and this team isn’t – needs a jolt to play with inspiration. Maybe what happened at FSU provides that jolt.
Some interesting perspective, I thought, from Eric Montross in the above-linked story. Montross was a senior on the 1993 national title team that suffered a 26-point loss at Wake Forest in late January. A couple of months later, the Tar Heels defeated Michigan in the national championship game.
“The thing that I remember about our team,” Montross said, “was that there was just an absolute commitment to do what we needed to do in order to win. And we got it handed to us that game and it was just a mindset that we were going to work hard enough to overcome that. And that we weren’t going to make similar mistakes again.”
Montross, now the analyst for the Tar Heels’ radio broadcasts, said he believes this UNC team has it in it to respond the same way. And one of the main reasons why Montross believes this is because of the presence of Zeller.
“This is certainly a really bad game,” Montross said. “But if you look at the silver lining, Zeller played a really good game. … And he’s a senior. If Tyler had gone lifeless midway through the first half [I’d be concerned]. … But they’ve got a guy who is absolutely committed to this as a senior.”