CHAPEL HILL — Three North Carolina-related things to think about on this Monday morning from Chapel Hill:
North Carolina is seeking a dose of mental toughness in the wake of the Tar Heels’ 90-57 defeat against Florida State over the weekend. I wrote about that in a story right here.
Even in some of its most dominant victories this season, the Heels have, at times, lacked poise and intensity. Roy Williams hasn’t questioned his team’s effort, and after the debacle at Florida State he said, “I don’t think our guys laid down.” But, right before he said that, he said this: “It definitely comes back to poise, there’s no question about that.”
The defeat against the Seminoles represented the Tar Heels’ third consecutive on the road. And they appeared rattled in certain moments of all three defeats – in the second half at UNLV on Nov. 26, in the final moments at Kentucky on Dec. 3, and now throughout at FSU on Saturday. Asked what the loss taught him, the junior guard Dexter Strickland said, “That we still have areas where we need to grow. Having that toughness to where we have to stay focused when we’re down like that.”
Said Harrison Barnes: “[We] weren’t mentally focused enough to get it done.”
And John Henson: “We didn’t come ready to play today.”
UNC has as much, if not more, physical talent than any team in the country. But the Heels challenge now is to become stronger mentally. Much stronger, after what happened on Saturday in Tallahassee, Fla.
From the department of doesn’t-really-mean-anything-but-still-kind-of-interesting: UNC’s 33-point loss at Florida State was the worst loss of the Williams era. You knew that. But did you know this: Three out of UNC’s past four national title teams didn’t suffer losses by 33 points combined in their title seasons.
The 2008-09 championship team lost four games by a combined 16 points. The ’04-05 team lost four games by a combined 28 points. The ’81-82 team lost two games by a combined 21 points.
For those looking for something positive to think about, there’s this: UNC won the national championship in 1993 not too long after the Tar Heels’ 26-point loss at Wake Forest in late January of that season. That was a good Wake team, though, with Randolph Childress and Rodney Rogers. The Demon Deacons went 21-9 and reached the Sweet 16.
Are the Seminoles equally as good? We’ll see.
Where, exactly, does the loss at FSU rank on the shock meter? I don’t think anyone could be that surprised that UNC lost this game. That wasn’t so shocking. But the way in which the Tar Heels lost – by being completely blown out – was indeed.
I posed the question on Twitter yesterday (you can follow me @_andrewcarter) asking for opinions about whether this was the most the most lopsidedly shocking defeat in school history.
Of course, the Tar Heels have lost games by greater margins. But for a team with these kind of expectations surrounding it, and with a No. 3 national ranking, you could easily argue what happened on Saturday was the most surprising blowout loss in school history.