Yes, that sucked. We went into Chapel Hill, played poorly to start…then clawed our way back to a small lead with all the momentum in the world. Then we crapped the bed down the stretch on the way to a blowout loss. A B+ effort by the Pack wins that game easily…and we didn’t even come close. One high profile individual didn’t even bring his D- game, or in all probability, multiple lobes of his brain.
But this team is still on track to go 11-7 and land no worse than a 6 seed. We CAN still be a very dangerous team in the post-season. This was ONE horrible game, at an inopportune time. After all, losing to a blue (especially light blue) hurts way worse than a clunker in Winston-Salem. We can’t let it beat us in Tallahassee and Atlanta, too.
Let’s also talk about coaching. Yes, I did (and still do) criticize his re-inserting Calvin, when the Purvis/Buckets/Zo/Woo/Talibeard five were clicking on all cylinders. But I do understand that it’s a “damned if you do, damned if you don’t” scenario. We absolutely NEED Calvin in Calvinistic form, or you can spend time outdoors with your family this March. He’s essential. You can’t lose him. You need him to feel he still has the coach’s and his teammates’ trust.
And let’s remember how to be nuanced. Mark Gottfried is not primarily an in-game strategist. He certainly has his moments (he was a maestro at Clemson, when so many players were out of synch), but his strengths are primarily as a recruiter, motivator, and mentor. ALMOST NOBODY is an expert in all phases. Roy Williams is VERY similar, though with a different temperament. He also gets critized sometimes as “sucking” in-game…when really, it’s just not his BEST skill. He’s a sure-fire first ballot Hall of Famer. Not saying MG is THAT…but he still has plenty of ceiling, and can succeed as who he is. Saying “he’s no better than Sidney Lowe on game day” and such…that’s just nonsense. We all take things too far in the heat of the moment, but I have seen that enough that I want to nip it in the bud.
Let this also be a general plea for moderation and critical thinking. It’s ok to criticize, and point out things that annoy us. Nobody should criticize other fans for not being 100% butterflies and sunshine. But it’s silly to go overboard in the other direction, and act like our basketball program and even this season are somehow lost cause dumpster fires. They’re not. Kids, I went to NC State from 1991-95. I know a dumpster fire when I see one.
Our coaches and players need to feel the sting of this rivalry loss, but they also need to learn from what happened and be better for the experience. It’s all still right in our hands.