The Tar Heels must develop a stronger trust factor.
There were many references made to the 2009 national title team after Sunday’s loss at Wake Forest opened league play. Though in principle they were warranted, in actuality they were off base.
Forget for a second that the 2009 team was arguably coach Roy Williams’ most talented team at North Carolina. It was also one of his most experienced. And that’s what allowed them to bounce back from a rocky start in ACC play.
“I’d much rather have the old team that they know how to handle it,” Williams said. “They have a trust factor with each other No. 1 and a trust factor with the staff. It was ’09 we started out 0-2 (in the ACC) and ended up winning a national championship.”
Not many expect Miami, as valiantly as it played at Syracuse over the weekend, to come into Chapel Hill on Wednesday and hand North Carolina its second loss to start ACC play. (Take that for what it’s worth; not many expected to see the Tar Heels lose to Belmont and UAB either.) But the possibility remains.
Under Williams, that has only happened on two other occasions. The first time, Carolina won 13 of its next 14 and still won the 2009 ACC regular season crown en route to the national title.
The second time it happened, Carolina righted itself to win 12 of its next 16 and finish third in the ACC before being eliminated in the round of 32 in the NCAA tournament. That should be in the forefront of the Heels’ minds because that was just last season. And their rotation is still reliant on a bunch of underclassmen.
In 2009, the starting lineup was three juniors and two seniors.
“There were some times (against Wake Forest) where we had three freshmen and two sophomores out on the floor,” Williams said. “We’re the opposite end of that pole from an experience factor, but you use that as an excuse way too much as well if you allow coaching staffs and kids to do it.”
Williams said his challenge is getting a young group to be self-assured in what it's doing. These Heels haven’t been around long enough to develop a trust factor that a more experienced team has.
“Right now they’re questioning everything,” Williams said. “They’re questioning their own commitment. They’re questioning, ‘Is my shot working?’ They’re questioning, ‘Are we eating the right thing for pre-game meal?’ You’d much rather have that experienced team that has been through it, but we don’t have that.”
What Carolina does have is 17 more league games to go and, sophomore guard Marcus Paige said, lessons it can take from the past.
“It’s a learning point for us: We have to bring it every night in the league, otherwise you’re going to get beat,” Paige said. “Coach Williams' team was 0-2 their first two ACC games in 2009 and they won a championship. We started off rough last year and bounced back. It’s not the end of the road but definitely not the way we wanted to start.”