Column: It’s not the end of the world

Stop.

Settle down.  

It’s not the end of the world.  

Sure, UNC walked, rather — sleepwalked — into Blacksburg on Monday night, and the Tar Heels paid for it, losing a winnable game, 80-69.  

Virginia Tech looked like they couldn’t miss a shot, while UNC couldn’t throw a ball into the ocean. The Hokies outhustled, outcoached and generally outperformed the Tar Heel in nearly every statistical category.  The scenes in a sulky Chapel Hill and rambunctious Blacksburg couldn’t be more different tonight.  

It’s easy to search for excuses, to become complacent, even. For instance, the Tar Heels practically went a week without classes after another snowpocalypse hit the great state of North Carolina. Getting back into the grind can trip up even the most experienced teams. 

Take away the excuses, but, again, it’s not the end of the world.  

The scoreboard providely plenty of grief for the Tar Heel faithful, but the final blow was the wild, boisterous crowd reminding those in blue of the tough year they’ve had in Blacksburg. 

“Just like foot-ball,” they chanted in cadence, evoking memories of particular beatdown in October 2017. “Just like foot-ball.” 

The Hokies had energy, and it showed. The players, head coach Buzz Williams (who had so much energy he sweated through another shirt) and the fans all brought their best efforts to Virginia Tech’s first win against UNC since 2010. 

UNC, on the other hand, seemed poised to head back to Chapel Hill from the opening tip.  

But, once more, it’s not the end of the world.  

UNC’s not-so-secret weapon, commonly referred to as Hall of Fame coach Roy Williams, knows how to coach basketball, believe it or not. His team seems to not have completely bought in to his philosophies or basketball dogma or whatever you might call it, but they will.

Williams consistently proves his teams continue to strengthen throughout the season, not peaking until March. The seasoned coach, a three-time national championship winner, will have his team playing as well as ever come the end of the year. 

Luke Maye and Joel Berry, who combined for 46 points in the loss, can’t be the only contributors. Cam Johnson, Kenny Williams and Theo Pinson will all need to step up as the Tar Heels make another push through their remaining schedule, which won’t provide them with much relief. 

UNC’s next five games will give Williams the opportunity to set his team in the correct direction. First, the Tar Heels play host to rival NC State before taking to the road to face a Clemson squad eager for revenge. Then, UNC will play Cam Johnson’s old squad, a struggling Pittsburgh team unlikely to win a single conference game, in Chapel Hill.  

Next, it’s another bout with Duke in Chapel Hill as the Tar Heels seek to avenge a loss in last year’s ACC Tournament before rounding out the stretch against NC State and an always tough crowd at PNC Arena.

Cam Johnson had a dismal outing, just scoring three points on 1-9 shooting against Virginia Tech

Cam Johnson had a dismal outing, just scoring three points on 1-9 shooting against Virginia Tech

The Tar Heels are now three games behind a Virginia team already poised for a regular season championship, but the conference schedule is comprised of a long and tedious eighteen games. Sitting at 5-3 (16-5), UNC still has a season to finish, and even if it fails to win its third straight ACC regular season championship, Roy Williams will still have his team to competing come March.

A loss to a decent opponent in a rough road environment? Yeah, it’s not the end of the world. 

 @brycelessgem

 

 

Photos by Smith Hardy