Good times on College GameDay from Southern Illinois.
Via ACC Nation:
The more interesting debate was between Digger Phelps and Jay Bilas.
Phelps compared Carolina to last year’s Florida team. If you remember, the Gators dropped three of four games to end February – falling by double digits to Vanderbilt, LSU and Tennessee – before beating Kentucky to end the regular season then sweeping the SEC and NCAA tournaments to win a second-straight national title. During that February losing stretch, many wondered if Florida could put it together in time for a March run.
Said Phelps, “They’re (North Carolina) wanting to get to San Antonio, but like what we saw (from) Florida last year, they lost some midseason games, but when Joakim Noah and company came around, they go 6-0 in March.”
Phelps seems to think Carolina can do the same thing this season. Maybe, but Jay Bilas wasn’t sold on the Florida-Carolina comparison. Or even the comparison that many, including Phelps, have made between this year’s Tar Heel team and the Carolina team that won a national title in 2005 when many thought the defense in the regular season wasn’t good enough to win a championship.
“I don’t think this team is like Florida,” Bilas said. “And I don’t think you can compare them to the 2005 team because the ‘05 Carolina team had Jackie Manuel and they had Raymond Felton, who were really vocal leaders. This year, if you say they’ve got a problem, it’s a relative problem because they’re a top team … the thing that would worry me is do they have an on-off switch on the defensive end? When they get into a halfcourt game can they take you out of what you do enough to win a game defensively? Because they’re not a great shooting team. They can really score, but if you can lock them down into a halfcourt game, is that what’s going to be the demise for them?”
After Davis asked if he had changed his mind – Bilas called Carolina the best team in the country just a few weeks ago – Bilas said he still felt the Tar Heels were the third- or fourth-best team in the country, but it was obvious Bilas now had some doubts about the Tar Heels’ chances of winning the NCAA Tournament.
Phelps, for his part, wasn’t ready to concede anything to Bilas.
“I disagree,” Phelps said. “I think they’re going to make it. Yeah, Maryland beat them at home, but look what Gary Williams has done – he beats Duke twice last year, Carolina (this year), he’ll be ready for taking on Duke this weekend. I buy Carolina to get it done.”
Yeah, I don’t know what Phelps is after here. The biggest difference between this UNC team and the Florida team last season is that group of players had already won a national title. Much of what we saw from them in dropping a few games really had to do with them being just plain bored with the regular season and once they got into tournament play they were able to raise the level. It was very much like what you see in the NBA where the best team out there may not even win their division. This team does not have that winning experience backing them up per se so when they have a letdown game like they versus Maryland it is a cause for concern.
As for comparison to the 05 team I am not even going to delve into that except the makeup of the team this season is different from that one going beyond vocal nature of leadership. The 05 team was more experienced and also had Marvin Williams. No one on the present team really fits.
Bilas is correct. The shine has come off this team a bit but they are still where they need to be. If they keep winning and can improve some of the flaws then when March rolls around their odds will be as decent as half a dozen other teams.