Kansas 84 UNC 66

Well, that did not go well.

This basically boiled down to Kansas playing exceptional defense and offense for the first 15 minutes of the game and during the same stretch UNC played about as bad as they could possibly play.  As much as I am a firm believer in this Tar Heel team to do incredible things when back against a wall, dealing with a 28 point deficit against a fellow #1 seed is probably too much for them to handle.  Given the fact UNC made up 24 points of that deficit you could argue anything over 25 points against a team like Kansas at any given moment in the game might be beyond the reach.  And Roy said as much in his press conference pointing out that rallying versus Boston College or Clemson is one thing but Kansas quite another.

However, UNC did make an incredible run to come back and when they cut the lead to four it looked every bit like they were on the verge of seizing control of the game since Kansas players appeared to be on the verge of falling completely apart.  Once again, credit goes to Kansas for not completely wetting the bed.  The wheels did not completely come off but at least three of the lug nuts were missing before they regained their poise and finished the Heels off.  That is really the difference.  This is not the first time UNC has played horribly on defense and watched a team produce on offense putting UNC in a hole.  In those instances the stage was smaller and the opposing team was not as good as a #1 seed in the NCAA Tournament. There is also only so much you can muster.  Rallying is difficult and even if you make it back, sometimes the energy is not there to do anything with it.

As for what went wrong, almost everything for most of the game.   As I said, Kansas was part of the equation but the other part of it is that maddening tendency I alluded to earlier this week.  UNC either shoots the ball well or completely goes to hell in a hand basket when it comes to making shots in a Final Four game.  The numbers do not lie, UNC does not simply slip and shoot the ball a few percentage points worse but they drop off the cliff.  This game like other Final Four matchups saw UNC drop from a season average around 50% into the 30% range. The three point shooting was even worse at around 20%.  In this game the really nasty shooting came during most of the first half then was really good in the comeback followed by a return to the shooting from the beginning of the game.  I will probably never understand what happens to UNC’s shooting in these national semifinal games.  It has happened enough to make you wonder how or why and also experience extreme frustration when there is no answer to those queries.

In examining the specific areas, the fact UNC was outrebounded in this game robbed the Heels of some second chance points which tend to help the shooting numbers.  The inside game was completely compromised despite 17 points from Tyler Hansbrough.  Kansas on the other hand controlled everything that happened around the rim and that is not something UNC has dealt with all season with the exception being the games versus Clemson.  To be honest the fact the Heels lost this game on the inside nothing short of a complete surprise to me.  On the perimeter, Danny Green and Wayne Ellington did all they could, especially during that 15 minutes with UNC coming back to cut it to four.  The major issue they had was the three pointers did not fall.  In some situations there were opportunities to tip the game in further in UNC’s favor but the shots just did not fall.  A few more threes, especially at given points in the game might have given UNC what it needed to assume the lead.

And I loathe to levy blame on any player in a game like this but Ty Lawson’s failure to run the offense or create offense using his speed is the most troublesome aspect of this game.  Lawson only had two assists for the game, was 2-8 from the floor fir nine points and generally did not make his presence felt in a real way.  I have read on the message boards the theory that Lawson was still injured which limited him.  I happen to think Kansas gets credit for some of that but on the other hand Lawson’s play along with the erratic nature of Deon Thompson and Alex Stepheson was enough to completely disrupt UNC’s offensive production.

I will no hesitate to blame the defense though.  UNC allowed Kansas to basically do what they wanted in the first half and the result was Kansas shooting the ball well while UNC could not a buy a basket.  As much as I have covered my ears when people started talking about the UNC defense being an impediment to a national title, it turns out they were proven right.  UNC did not play defense wll enough to compensate for the poor offensive production.  The inconsistency on that end of the floor has been a concern all season and the failure to play great defense for the full 40 minutes in this game was costly.

So there you have it.

I can honestly say I am far less distressed about this loss than I was last season.  The way the Georgetown game fell apart and the failure to make a Final Four left us all feel like UNC came up short in a major way.  This season, while not ending with a national title, can in no way be considered anything less than a great and successful season.  Winning a national title is extremely difficult, especially in a one and done setting.  UNC faced another #1 seed and it simply did not come out and play like they were capable of playing making this ending disappointment but by no means taking away from what this team has done.  UNC won more games than any other team in Tar Heel history and they also won the ACC regular season and tournament titles.  In doing so they took us all on a great ride with some heart stopping wins and simply showing heart in some tough circumstances.  Through the injuries which gave Quentin Thomas a 2nd life and the great comeback wins over Clemson, the win at Duke and simply being a team that you thought was almost incapable of losing.  And lest I forget Tyler Hansbrough is the national player of the year while producing a season for the ages in the annals of UNC history.

So many thanks to this team for the fun and fury of the last few months.  A national title would have been the ultimate cap but alas it was not meant to be.  Certainly not the first time we have been here and it will not be the last.  That being said, it does it make me love this season any less.

18 Responses to Kansas 84 UNC 66

  1. C. Michael says:

    There is something odd about losing in the Final 4. While it is obviously painful because you are so close to a title, there is an eery calm, because, let’s be honest, just getting to the Final 4 is sort of a junior championship. It is something that is celebrated and cherished. Banners are hung for it.

    Great season Heels!

  2. keithunc says:

    All the losses are tough to take. The last loss of the season is always the hardest because its another 7 months before we get to see our boys in action again. Its the game you get to replay in your head over and over. The what if. Even if all of our bigs go to the NBA its still Carolina on the jersey we root for. Year after year. The highs of the championships the lows of the 2002 season. We are always excited for the next game. I love my HEELS. What a wonderful season.

  3. Creecher says:

    I just want to say Thanks to the Heels for another GREAT season of basketball. It was fantastic while it lasted.

    Also, thanks THF. This was my first season following the blog and I can’t wait till next!

  4. Matt says:

    I’m truly glad most of the fans commenting are taking this so well. Not me. To play like that when it matters the most sours the whole season. I can’t call it this season a success. Maybe I’ll come around.

  5. C. Michael says:

    It’s all about perspective. If this season wasn’t a success, then all but 5 UNC seasons in history have been failures. Getting to the Final 4 can be done, for the most part, with talent and preparation, which is why I consider that the measure of a successful post-season run. Winning all six takes into account some degree of luck, and I won’t count on that.

    Additionally, everyone talks about all of UCLA’s championships, but most of those happened in a 16-team tourney, which is the rough equivalent of making it to the Final 4 now…

  6. kim says:

    i’m with matt. losing wasn’t the problem. not showing up was the problem. where was the hunger, the passion, the coaching? loving the heels is not in question, loving the performance is! if we had played the majority of the game the way we did in the comeback and still come up short, then the feeling would have been different. you cannot go nine minutes without scoring against a team like kansas. this feels as bad as the loss to g’town last year. as for ucla, they didn’t show up for their game either! so much for the “storied” teams! the good news is that in a few days we will still be CAROLINA (the best ever)!!

  7. VegasHeelFan07 says:

    Must say thanks to THF for allowing me to follow this season thru the blog….makes the season all the more enjoyable!

  8. uncgirl50 says:

    I cried, I yelled and my stomach still hurts. But we will be back. Thanks THF, it was a great season and we got this far.

    Weird how last year: Elite 8, this year Final Four, next year Champs? That would be the next step.


  9. C. Michael says:

    Well, technically, the next step would be losing in the title game, which would be MUCH worse, especially given the Senior class… I’d happily skip that step, though!! 😉

  10. Josh Bowling says:

    I hope we retain some of our stars. Ty, Hansbrough, Ellington, please come back. Hopefully Zeller, Ed Davis, and Larry Drew will add some chemistry to next season’s team. Really looking forward to seeing the Heels in action next year. I think, despite how we may play in the regular season, that next year’s tourney will be our time!

  11. S-dog says:

    Tar Heels were a good team, but never as good as the Hype. They didn’t play a very difficult schedule, and the ACC was weak. They got exposed in this game. With Ty and Lawson leaving for the NBA, the future is bleak.

  12. Tar Heel Fan says:

    With any due respect, you have no idea what you are talking about.

    Consider this. Memphis played a weaker schedule than UNC did and they did not have any issues and if Kansas should run them on Monday is the same conclusion going to apply? UNC beat Wash St and Louisville to get into the Final Four. Many people considered UL one of the top 5-6 teams in the country and WSU was the third best team in the top conference in the nation. So, UNC was not “exposed” and even if they were what does it say about Kansas that UNC whipped them by 24 for the second 15 mins of the game? UNC had a bad game and Kansas had a great game none of which takes away from what happened during the regular season.

    Second point: Lawson is thought to be gone, Hansbrough and Ellington are probable to return in my opinion so things could break one of four ways. UNC has some good recruits coming for next season and for 2009 and 2010. The future will be interesting but not bleak.

  13. KAB says:

    I’ve been a loyal Tarheel for 30 years and I’ll stay that way, but I believe this game against Kansas was an embarrassing disaster! Roy Williams was far too casual in his coaching and it showed in the team’s performance — or lack thereof. This is the worst conclusion to a season I have ever seen. The only good thing I can say about it is that the Heels were very generous to give the game away to an opponent. I don’t like it, but it was a generous gesture.

  14. TSU_Hawk says:

    Stumbled upon this great blog site looking for the reaction of the true Carolina fans following the big game.

    Not all KU fans share the same sentiment as Jayhawk. I still think Carolina is a great team and their fans have been very classy in dealing with this situation. I would not want to have to play them again… that’s for sure. You have a great coach in Williams, and everybody over here in Lawrence knows it. I’m just glad we got our guy now. Congrats on a great season and hopefully we run into each other again next April.

  15. Tar Heel Fan says:

    Thank you for redeeming your fan base from the lunatic fringe all fan bases have. Best wishes on Monday.

  16. C. Michael says:

    KAB, apparently you didn’t watch the 2007 finale…

  17. KU Hawk says:

    I agree with what TSU_Hawk Says, most Kansas Fans are very appreciative of the 15 years Roy gave Kansas. He is a hall of fame coach who loves Kansas as his second favorite team. I wish I could run into Roy again and tell him how much I and most others love the man. Only the band wagon KU fans can possibly be mad at a man who brought 4 Final Fours and two national championship appearences to Kansas because he went home to his alma matter and home state. I was at the football stadium in 2003 when Roy said “I’m stayin”. It was a great moment no doubt. Who would have ever dreamed the Carolina position would open again? Has Roy’s departure hurt the KU program? I would say no so I wish the crying here in Kansas would stop! Roy was good for Kansas. He is part of our tradition rich history and we should honor him as such. Congratulations Tar Heal Nation on a great year! See you next year in your usual places, at the top along with us in Kansas!

  18. Tar Heel Fan says:

    The continuity at Kansas is amazing. Most teams take a huge dip when losing a long time successful coach. UNC did and missed the tournament twice and was 8-20 on season. The worst thing that happened to Kansas was back-to-back first round exits from the NCAA Tournament. Self is a great coach and Kansas shares so much with UNC and vice versa I hate it when some fans do not recognize that and zero in on hating the other team to make themselves feel better.

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