Sunday, January 14, 2007

Hokies School the Heels

To be ranked #1 in the nation is to place a huge target on your back. Yesterday, the Virginia Tech Hokies hit the bullseye, defeating the #1 Tar Heels 94-88.
For the most of the game, the Heels played weak, uninspired basketball. While VA Tech was busy overcoming an early 8-point deficit and building a 10-point lead, the Tar Heels exposed their great weakness - no leadership. The vaccum continued for the first 15 minutes of the second half, allowing the Hokies to build a 23 point lead.
Fortunately, the Heels tried to redeem themselves during the final 5 minutes of the game. However, at the 3:36 mark, VA Tech still led by 19 points. In a furious comeback effort, the Heels were able to cut the lead down to 3 points. They never got over the hump, but the frenetic final effort made the loss a lot more palatable.
You see, we Tar Heel fans have the remarkable ability to rationalize a defeat and call it a "good loss." The Number One ranking this early in the season is a curse, so it's good to shed that burden. Furthermore, yesterday's game was the first road game in over a month, and the Hokie squad was much more talented than most of the cupcakes the Heels had previously played. If we had lost by 23, this rationale would not apply. However, we cut 20 points off a lead in 3 minutes, and we did it on the road against a considerable opponent. My optimism is no longer blind - but it is still pretty damn strong. This team is solid, for sure.
Our perimeter offense is still weak, and Brandan Wright missed 7 of his 8 free throws. However, the only thing I'm really worried about is the lack of leadership. Who is our leader? Wes Miller is not a crucial enough player to fill the role. Reyshawn Terry lacks consistency and urgency. Tyler Hansbrough is a good role model, but he's neither vocal nor emotional. If the Heels want to live up to their hype as a National Championship contender, someone on the team needs to channel their inner-David Noel or watch some old Raymond Felton highlights. This team needs a commander-in-chief.
Next up: at Clemons, 9:00 on Wenesday.


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