Another North Carolina Basketball season has come and gone. 24 wins. A Hall of Fame Tipoff Tournament Championship. And for the first time ever, a Roy Williams coached Carolina team is back at home after the Round of 32 for two years in a row. For many fans, it’s been an interesting, yet unsatisfying, season. Summer drama led to early season losses. Disappointing outcomes led to surprising upsets. Big victories led to an almost unprecedented poor start in conference play. A wake up call led to a huge win streak. And the season ended early, yet again, in the most bizarre of circumstances. As we reflect on the 2013-2014 North Carolina basketball team and look to the future, here are a few observations from this year’s season-
1) The Tar Heels Set the School Record for Worst Team Free Throw Shooting Percentage EVER
According to InsideCarolina, the Tar Heels finished the season shooting 62.6% from the line as a team, worse than the previous mark they set in 1954, 62.9%. That was good for #338 out of 345 teams in the NCAA this year. It was a huge difference maker in a lot of close games, and the team actually shot much worse in many of their bad losses. Carolina’s free throw shooting percentage in early season losses of five points, or fewer, is listed below, as well as their opponent’s percentage from the line-
11/17 (83-80 LOSS)
UNC (22-48, 45.8%), Belmont (20-22, 90.9%)
12/1 (63-59 LOSS)
UNC (4-11, 36.4%), UAB (22-28, 78.6%)
12/18 (86-83 LOSS)
UNC (24-47, 51.1%), Texas (20-33, 60.6%)
One interesting observation is the obvious free throw disparity in many of these games. Sometimes, UNC was given many opportunities (Belmont), but other times, they weren’t (UAB). In all cases however, they squandered the chances that they were given. Even when their opponent shot a poor percentage like in the Texas game, North Carolina found a way to shoot worse, ruining their chances of victory. If they are able to turn this statistic around and get their shooting closer to at least 70-75% next season, they will find themselves on the other side at the end of a lot of these close games.
2) The Shot Clock Wasn’t Working Correctly on the Second to Last Play of the UNC-ISU Game Either
For whatever reason, the NCAA doesn’t allow referees to control the shot clock from a button on their waist during the Tournament. They do this the rest of the year, so why not now? That doesn’t make any sense. No. But it’s the NCAA, it never does. The most frustrating part about the Tar Heels’ loss on Sunday Night to Iowa State isn’t that their Championship hopes are over. No, it’s that the incompetence of the NCAA played a huge part in the game’s final minutes and ultimately, decided the winner. Should Carolina have held onto the lead that they had at the end of the game? Absolutely. Should they have done a better job of capitalizing on the absence of Georges Niang? Sure, but that’s not the point. Despite not playing their best, they were still in it to the final possession. The game was STILL close at the end. Carolina deserved to win, or lose, on their own terms, but the NCAA didn’t give them a chance.
I remember watching the game and turning to my Dad when Iowa State got the ball back for their last possession. The shot clock didn’t start for a full two seconds then either- exactly like on Carolina’s last possession. Sure, most of the media isn’t talking about it. Either they didn’t see it, or maybe they don’t want to address the bigger problem. But it happened, and it affected the game. It makes me wonder. Was the shot clock ‘malfunctioning’ the whole time? And if so, how did this affect other possessions? It brings to question the bigger picture- is the NCAA Tournament, and its last second Cinderellas, all the product of a manufactured, carefully planned fraud? There’s no real way to know because the camera doesn’t focus on the shot clock until the end, but maybe the NCAA refuses to use the best equipment available because it would take control away from them? There’s no definitive proof, but really, who would be surprised?
But let’s focus on the UNC game. Did the refs make the right decision when they decided that there was no time on the clock? Sure. At least, based off of the rules in place. But let’s not pretend that if the shot clock was correct that the Tar Heels would have played the ending the exact same way. Roy Williams isn’t a Hall of Fame coach for no reason. The team would have, at the very least, gotten off a desperation half court heave. And who knows, it might have gone in. Marcus Paige made practically a full court shot at the halftime buzzer of the Providence game. It wasn’t on camera and it was too late to count, but the broadcast caught the distinctive ‘swish’ sound, as well as the reaction from the crowd. Shots like that ARE possible, and North Carolina should have had an attempt to make one.
Iowa State is a talented team. They played well and based off of the final score, deserved to win. But the NCAA’s faulty shot clock policies need to be reexamined. Why fight against something so obvious? Something that just makes sense? We could ask these questions all day, but until the NCAA commits to sweeping changes, we know that our opinions don’t matter. They do what they want.
Looking to next year, the Tar Heels have a bright future. Marcus Paige has already announced that he’s returning, and James Michael McAdoo can be expected to do the same thing, at least based off of the current NBA Draft projections. That leaves North Carolina with a finally veteran team and the third best recruiting class of 2014 coming in. Reset. Reload. Bring on the 2014-2015 season.