And welcome to the first edition of The Daily Three on UNC Now, The News & Observer’s newly-launched blog dedicated to all things Tar Heels. The Daily Three will be a (nearly) daily feature here, and will highlight three topics related to UNC athletics.
Let’s get started:
After seven days off, the Tar Heels return tonight to the Smith Center, where they host Elon. The game figures to be another lopsided victory for No. 5 UNC but, nonetheless, the meeting tonight against the Phoenix still has value for the Tar Heels.
After all, Roy Williams will undoubtedly be curious to see how his team responds to its longest layoff of the season. It’s not uncommon this time of year for elite teams to slog through these kinds of games – ones against overmatched competition that don’t present any kind of a challenge.
UNC has already had a couple of those kinds of performances this season, when the Heels have won despite sloppy play, or mental lapses. And let’s face it, the Heels could play their sloppiest game of the season tonight and still win by 25.
But such a performance wouldn’t be good – especially not after such a convincing performance UNC gave in that victory against Texas on Dec. 21. Before that game, Williams had criticized his team after a 50-point victory against Nicholls earlier that week.
The Tar Heels responded with perhaps their most complete victory of the season against the Longhorns. UNC played with an intensity and an energy that had been missing at times earlier this season. Does that continue against Elon? Or do the Heels just kind of go through the motions during another rout?
It wouldn’t be the most surprising thing if the latter happened. This is UNC’s first game in a while, and the Heels are coming back to town after getting a taste of home cooking. And hey, if they are sluggish, Williams probably wouldn’t have too much of an issue helping them burn off those holiday meals with some extra running.
A sharp performance against Elon would save UNC some sprints.
Since UNC’s 41-24 loss against Missouri in the Independence Bowl, I’ve spent the past couple of days in College Station, Texas, where I’ve been doing some reporting for an upcoming story on Larry Fedora. The Tar Heels’ new coach is, of course, a native of College Station.
So I drove on over from Shreveport, La., which is where the Independence Bowl is. That four-hour drive gave me a lot of time to think. And one of the main thoughts I kept coming back to was this: Just what, exactly, was the point of the Independence Bowl?
You can ask the same question about most bowl games but it’s especially relevant to the Independence.
Yes, it has almost become cliché nowadays to criticize the number of college football bowl games. College football’s postseason is a flawed system, and it seems the only people who disagree are those who are making lots and lots of money off of it.
And yes, the weather was bad on Monday night – cold and rainy – and that was unfortunate. But when you combine the date (the day after Christmas), the matchup (two 7-5 teams with fan bases that weren’t excited about this game) and the locale (Shreveport, La.) is it any surprise that UNC and Missouri played in front of an embarrassing number of empty seats at Independence Stadium?
Nothing against Shreveport, or the very friendly and hospitable people who help to put on the Independence Bowl. You have to question the relevancy and meaning of such a game, though.
And we didn't even discuss the leaky press box, where throughout the game a trash can sat in the middle collecting a steady drip of rainwater.
Remember back in the day when you had to wait until the local news came on to see a highlight of a memorable play in a game you just watched? And maybe they’d show the play a couple times and, if you were lucky, you got to see it a couple more times on SportsCenter, or maybe on some kind of a “plays of the week” recap deal?
Those days seem so distant, don’t they? That dunk that P.J. Hairston had against Texas – you know the one – already had about 45,000 views on YouTube as of last night. It happened just eight days ago. And already 45,000 views.
Crazy. Here it is again, by the way:
Enjoy it. Until next time, I'll see you onthe road back from College Station.