The Morning After

or “How I Learned To Stop Fretting and Embrace the End of the Season.”

I would say the sun came up this morning but it is behind some heavy clouds here in Raleigh so I will have to take someone else’s word on it.  Yes it hurts and in case anyone was wondering what Daddy would have said following this loss, I remember what he emailed me after UNC lost to Florida in 2000.

“I’ve passed this way before.

He is quoting the title line from a song by Jimmy Ruffin that seems to perfectly capture how we feel:

Life lends a crushing blow
And once again a heart is broken
And as history repeats itself
These few words are sadly spoken

I’ve passed this way before
And I’ve felt this pain before
A hurt that took so long to end
Has found my poor heart again

So it hurts and then it again it has hurt so many times before. On the radio broadcast Jones Angel said UNC’s record was 96-39(see note below) in the NCAA Tournament all time which includes four national titles.  When Daddy said he’d “passed this way before” he was making quite an understatement.  To be exact UNC fans have felt this feeling 36 times before not counting the non-tournament seasons. Only four times has UNC ended a season as the nation’s top team as determined by the NCAA which is to say this road is the one more frequently traveled in our allegiance to the Heels.  Not that I would have it any other way.  It is the 36 seasons of NCAA Tournament failure that make the four seasons of NCAA Tournament success all the sweeter.  Save a stretch of years in the 1960s and 1970s where UCLA mopped up, UNC’s rate of success versus failure is better than most.  In this way, coming up short like this is the expected result.  That does not mean the pain is lessened nor does it ease that sadness of a season coming to an end a tad prematurely.  It does offer some perspective however, which hopefully gives up comfort .

In actuality the main issue many of us will face is dealing with rival fan bases and the classless among them who wish to revel in our misery despite the reality that our team’s accomplisments so far outweigh their own.  We will hear in coming days about how overrated UNC was or that the 36 wins were “soft.”  Tyler Hansbrough’s performance in the Final Four will be derided and offered as proof that he is not as special as we say.  They will find joy in the demise of this UNC season mainly because they could find little joy in their own team’s season.  Granted this is the nature of the beast.  We give as good as we get in most cases.  When Duke loses UNC fans are the first to enjoy it despite what kind of season our Heels are having. This is how it works and unfortunately we have to live with it.

However it does not mean we have to take it sitting down.  The fact of the matter is on this Sunday morning there are only two fan bases who can claim any manner of bragging rights versus the Heels and that is the two teams left standing.  In one of those cases, some Kansas fans are probably just as happy they get to stop paying for therapy over Roy leaving than they are their own team winning.  As for the rest, they can really shut up for all I care. Despite what incredibly ridiculous spin they might invent from the deep recresses of their own asinine thinking, the facts are incontovertible: UNC had a great basketball season.  As Roy said, there was a bigger dream which they could not attain but in no way does it deprive us of what we experienced in cheering our team to 36 wins.  It cannot diminish what we felt when Wayne Ellington silenced Littlejohn or when Danny Green hit clutch shot after clutch shot to keep the Heels alive game in and game out.  They cannot mute the love we had for the things Marcus Ginyard did or the excitment in watching Ty Lawson toast a defender on the break.  The words of fans whose team could not solve their own point guard problems will not detract from Quentin Thomas solving UNC’s during that six game stretch in February.  Nor does the petty ramblngs of other fans dim the flashes of brilliance from Deon Thompson, Alex Stepheson and Will Graves.  And the hatred of Tyler Hansbrough is well documented and frankly disturbing but looking back at the season he had, nothing anyone can say will take away from what has to be considered one of the great season long performances by one player in the storied history of the UNC program.  Hansbrough is the player of the year and no manner of pedantic whining on their part can change their fact.

So hold you head high Tar Heel nation as you go out today.  Do not let these fans from other schools attempt to distract from the ineptitude of their own teams by attempting to project it up on ours.  UNC was #1 for most of the season and while they did not arrive at the final desitnation we all had hoped for, the journey that come up short was as fun a ride as I have been on in quite some time.

Note: I misheard Jones Angel on Saturday quoting UNC’s NCAA Tourney mark at 96-31.  It is actually 96-39 now with four losses coming in the old 3rd place game the NCAA used to torture losing teams with.  UNC had 40 NCAA Tournament appearances and has won the title in only four instances.

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26 Responses to The Morning After

  1. TxTarheel says:

    It hurts much because we care, and we care because the standard has been set very high. I can live with that. Let’s not kid ourselves, last night’s performance definitely stings. Watching the highlights again this morning, I am convinced some mix of zone D could have aided the effort; the weaknesses on defense just do not correct themselves (poor switches, no switches).

    Had one comfortable notion however; supposing that no one leaves early, which at this point is possible…this team could be well-poised for a deep run into next season. My humblest thought is that Tyler is the only legit threat to depart for the NBA. UNC has a top-flight class coming in next season. Roy is still a HOF-er, and at this point that’ll have to do.

  2. Lonnie says:

    Anyone know what time the team gets back?

  3. Larry P says:

    THF said: “…the main issue many of us will face is dealing with rival fan bases and the classless among them who wish to revel in our misery despite the reality that our team’s accomplisments so far outweigh their own.”

    Our response, I suppose, is thus: “I’m happy that you ABCers finally have something to cheer about.”
    Or, “What do you have to look forward to next season?”

    We at Tar Heel Nation, on the other hand, always look for great things to come.

  4. Johnny says:

    My method of healing is to look forward to next season.

    We will lose seniors Quentin Thomas and Surry Wood. Thanks for a great year, Q.

    One of the NBA draft sites (nbadraft.net) has Wayne as a #25 pick this year and Hansbrough and Lawson mid-to-late first round picks the following year. (when I checked last week, All three were slated to be back next season. So it is possible that all three will return again.

    Add to that the return of Bobby Frasor, whose great defensive intensity would have helped in so many games this year, as well as the new kids (Zeller, Davis and Drew) and more seasoning for Green and Graves on the wings, and the Heels have the look of another great team and a likely pre-season #1 again.

    And the guys we have get a summer to work on the holes in their games. Ginyard can concentrate on adding a mid-range jumper. Stephenson can work on softening his hands and his offensve touch. Thompson can work on his defensive footwork and rebounding consistency. (Not sure what else Tyler does–start making threes?) And the whole team will be a much further along with defensive and half-court chemistry.

    And the Heels still beat Duke at Cameron, lost just three games, and made it to the Final Four. And I got to start teaching my daughter about sportsmanship–she’s four months old and enjoys her “Duke Sucks” onesie immensely. 🙂 (I’ll teach her about “good” sportsmanship during football season.)

    Thanks, THF, for hosting us all again this season. I can hardly wait until October.

  5. This one hurts. My dad and my brother, die hard UVa fans, called me after the game to say UNC sucks. I followed with a questions on where Virginia has been the past six weeks and they both had no answer. Gotta love them.
    Truth be told, not only the fan bases will be gloating, but I think most of the haters on ESPN are already celebrating. I’d like to know if Skip Bayless is preparing a piece on how KU ran up the score on UNC, and if Jaylen Rose is going to scorn KU and Memphis for lack of class and any dancing (not that I think any team, particularly KU was classless). This is what is going to make me not want to watch any TV or listen to the radio.
    I’ll say it again, we had a chance to win despite the 28-point defecit, and I think KU not only outplayed UNC, but I think the coaching and preparation wasn’t quite there for the Heels. I admire Roy for owning up to it, and here’s to hoping he can get the defensive shortcomings fixed so UNC can dominate their way to the national title next year.
    I hope that Tyler, Ty, and Wayne all come back next year. I’m pretty sure they all will, but you never know. I’m already looking forward to the schedules being released, and hopefully they’re close to me so I can catch a game next year.
    Thanks Quentin; you really showed a lot of people what patience, practice, and genuine hard work can do when it’s your time to shine.

  6. C. Michael says:

    Johnny,

    Here is the actual early entry page: http://nbadraft.net/2008earlyentry.asp

    According to this, as of yesterday, Lawson and Ellington are likely in the draft, Hansbrough is on the fence, and Ginyard is likely to return. Will be interesting to see how last nights game changes things.

  7. Yes, we’ve come this way many, many times. It’s the road most traveled and dead-ended for a long-time Carolina fan. My mother didn’t call this morning but I know what she’ll say when she does: “Surely not the first time.” 31 times is a LOT to become jaded, but we don’t: every year, regardless of where we might live in this country, we expect that The Heels will take the title. We have coaches like Dean Smith and Roy with excellent recruiting skills. And yes, it always hurts and yes, summer comes and as surely comes summer, comes November. As T.S. Eliot writes, “April is the cruelest month.” March madness to April sadness. It happens and sometimes Carolina hangs a national title. Sometimes they don’t. I hold my head high with the mantra, “How ’bout them Heels!”

    This team was good. Yet, they beat themselves. Nobody could beat this team: they beat themselves in the opening minutes with Kansas. No, D. No offensive rebounds. They moved like snails on Valium. Who knows what happened. Youth, emotionality, lack of focus: WHO KNOWS? Having gone down this road so many times, who knows?

    Maybe next year if ANY ROTATION PLAYER (aside from Q–bless his heart–gotta love the guy and MISS HIM–because he stepped in, stepped up and got The Heels in a position to play a semi-final) has enough sense to return The Heels can pull it off.

    And that’s what we say. Been here. Done it. Each time, it’s sad. And yet, like she said in the closing lines of an epic film, “After all, tomorrow is another day.”

  8. C. Michael says:

    bhb, agree almost completely. A little hesitant to say I “expect” a title each year. I guess I’m too much of a stats/reality guy to do anything more than “hope” for a title. I’m not really sure what I do expect from the Heels each year, I guess it is just to enjoy the ride, which I often fail to do until it is too late (i,e. today).

  9. uncgirl50 says:

    Hopping no one leaves. I’m gonna miss Q. Tyler won’t leave w/out a championship so hopefully he will stay. Ty and Wayne can’t leave! We need The Blur and Hurricane.

    Everytime I think of the score my stomach hurts but next year we will be back! Bobby will be back andwe will have yet another reason to fight on.

    GO HEELS!

  10. Josh Bowling says:

    Did Frasor get a “Red-Shirt” ? Thanks Quentin for a fantastic 4 years. I hope you enjoyed every minute of the ride. You will not be forgotten here. Every Tarheel was part of one of the greatest seasons in NCAA history. One thing Coach K and I have in common, and that it is considered by both of us to be a great accomplishment to be in the final 4. Zeller, Davis, and Drew– You guys can help make it happen next year. Hopefully we will peak a little later next year. Sometimes late season adversities can help. We will play our best ball in the ncaa tournament in 2009. I am sure of that.

  11. C. Michael says:

    Josh, I believe the rule is that you have to play 30% (or less) of the teams games. Frasor played 12 games. If post-season counts, then Bobby would have played 31% of the UNC games. Cruel irony, one more game and he would have been at exactly 30%.

  12. Tar Heel Fan says:

    Frasor’s situation is still being appealed. Roy is hoping they can see fit to show some grace and grant him the extra season.

  13. Will says:

    I am still here in San Antonio, and its distressing to know that the team has left and I have to watch Memphis and Kansas play tomorrow. But we have to remember that this was a historic Final Four with all #1 seeds making it through. The odds on us actually winning the championship were, in my opinion, 25% at best. I’m glad we had a great season.

  14. Josh Bowling says:

    Likewise Will!

  15. Silent Sam says:

    Re: To be exact UNC fans have felt this feeling 31 times before not even counting the non-tournament seasons.

    I’m not sure that’s correct — I know that on at least two occasions UNC went to the Final Four when there was still a consolation game (for 3rd place with the loser finishing 4th). I don’t know how many times UNC lost the semi-final game, then lost the consolation game, but for sure they lost both in ’67 & ’69. Likely this was the only two times.

    Also, keep in mind only UCLA (11), Kentucky (7) and Indiana (5) have more NCAA men’s basketball crowns than UNC.

  16. Tar Heel Fan says:

    I am going off what I thought I heard and have not had time to check it for myself. I could have the 31 wrong.

  17. C. Michael,
    How accurate is that website? Although anything is possible, I can’t see Wayne and Ty leaving right now. I would think NBA teams would be hesitant with Ellington’s streakiness and Lawson’s injury this year.
    Lord, I hope they stay. Next year would be a long season if they don’t.

  18. Will says:

    I suspect Ty was on pace to leave this year prior to his injury since he was playing very well. If you recall, Roy said that his ankle wouldn’t be totally healthy until August. So, Ty would have to be drafted without the benefit of full workouts. At his height, the NBA would certainly need to see what he can do against NBA-type competition in their workouts. Without this, his stock would drop.

    Ty has said before that he wanted to leave when he’d be a lotto pick. I think one more year of solid play and then going through the NBA workouts would allow this. He’ll probably be disappointed.

  19. C. Michael says:

    Andy,

    I’ve been following that site for about 6 years and I would say it has a reasonable track record, but then again, we are talking about the whims of 19-20 years olds, with the occasional shady influence, so it is hardly an exact science.

  20. keithunc says:

    Does anyone feel that the last couple of years maybe 12 years that we have missed the presence of a big (6 11 – 7 0) guy in the middle. Every team seems to have a couple of those just sitting on their bench waiting to come in. Dean Smith would always say ” You can’t teach tall “. Oh well just a thought.

  21. keithunc says:

    6’8 guys are nice but we need size.

  22. Chris says:

    We had size in Thompson and Stepheson and they just didn’t give Tyler any help. This game in my mind seriously damaged Lawson’s and Ellington’s NBA status. Both of them appeared to have wilted under the pressure of taller and more skilled guards. Ty’s 5’11 may haunt him when you have a big guard like C D-R from Memphis playing huge, dunking,etc. and Ty gets blocked or loses the ball every time into the paint….. The way they played against Kansas bodes very well for their return and not very well for their NBA futures…………

  23. Rhonda says:

    Hey guys,
    I have been a Carolina Fan since I was born. Lived in the west and always had my heart with Carolina. I was at UNC when MJ was there. I just want to know. Did Kansas kidnapp the UNC players and sub NC State guys? OUCH Will till next year. I bleed Carolina blue.

  24. 52BigGameJames says:

    what’d I miss, lol?

    not that it matters, as I’m sure it’s been cussed and discussed, but it’s therapeutic for me to put it on “net-paper”…one and done-promise!

    Plenty of blame to go around for this one, but give KU their due–they proved out. Imagine the potential outcome had it been Davidson-not a stretch for me.

    I totally agree Tex, that some zone (especially at the time they were closing the gap) would’ve been well worth experimenting with, and thought so at the time. That ones on Roy!
    28 point start of the game deer-in-the-headlights deficit was on the team.
    Tyler, Wayne and Danny need lose no sleep over their efforts.
    Ty needs to grow some *****.
    Deon needs to find a seat on the bench, and,
    Marcus needs to STFU-he was about as lame a no-show as any player I can ever remember. Enough talk dude–find a game or find a seat. After that effort, I am now convinced that with their current games, Marcus and Deon are but 7/8/9 players at best. Hopefully some of the incoming will play with some fire in the belly instead of fear in the eyes! Still love Huckleberry and the Heels, but sometimes it needs to be said…there now, I feel better!

    Coffee, is for closers…we NEED CLOSERS!

  25. 52BigGameJames says:

    well, one more: Dr. James off-season prescription for the “not-ready-for prime-time players”:

    Ty: watch film of Chalmers, and Raymond Felton–you have the physical tools in spades, but the semifinal proved you weren’t ready for the big stage.

    Tyler: hard to improve on perfection, but since that’s what you’re about: become a better passer-improve your court vision-you could learn by watching some film of that Frosh at UCLA. Show us that 3-I know it’s there. You will cement your status as UNC’s greatest player ever if you add those dimensions to your game, and you will need both at the next level anyway!
    Wayne: you made a believer out of me this year–comes from hard work and steely determination. You’ve become a very solid defender, an extremely under-rated passer, and pretty decent slasher. A little-bit deeper shot range, and stronger physical presence would put you in 1st team AA status range.

    Danny: a little better ball-handling skill, and more intelligent shot-selection. When you make your mind up, you are one of the best defenders in the Country.

    Deon/Marcus: where to start? Deon needs to find some NBA players to go one on one with, and Marcus should call up Wayne’s buddy over in Durham for some one-on-one “man-up” sessions. If you’re content to be a role player with that bod, then dust off a comfortable seat 3 or 4 spaces down from Coach Robinson, because there will be some hungry fellas coming in next season. It’s great to have a voice in the locker room, and makes for some good quotes, but talk is cheap Bro! I’ll be VERY surprised if you turn out to be anything much more than an articulate Curtis Hunter/Kevin Madden.

    Bobby: more range on the 3–watch film of the Kansas game to improve your judgment on passing angles.

    Roy: you obviously picked up more from Dean than X’s & O’s–two HOF coaches who were so stubborn at times, they refused to employ strategies to fit the game at strategic times, even when the visible evidence indicates a need to finesse.

    JMHO

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