Posted: 1:28 p.m. Friday, April 19, 2013
By Brian Barbour
One problem with being a highly successful program is any bad season stick out like very sore thumbs. Even the 2010 season has somehow cast a large shadow that people forget the surrounding seasons. As Andy Glockner points out, there is quite a few people who don't realize how good UNC has been under Williams.
What stood out more during an examination of how the Tar Heels will look this season is how well, relative to perception, the Tar Heels have weathered downturns in light of personnel changes. The 2010 NIT season and the first half of 2010-11, before Kendall Marshall took over at the point, stand out in the minds of a lot of people, but that was really the outlier blip despite what feels like a sizable perception of Roy Williams’ “dips” in team performance in Chapel Hill as he reloads.
After losing everyone off the 2005 national champions, Carolina (fueled by freshman Tyler Hansbrough) was actually a 3-seed in the 2006 NCAAs. That’s a footnote because they were dumped in the Round of 32 by eventual Final Four Cinderella George Mason. Then the 2007 NCAAs started a run of five Elite Eights in six seasons, including two Final Fours and Roy’s second national title in 2009. The 2012 team was also a huge title contender until Marshall broke his wrist against Creighton in the Round of 32. They still nearly made the Final Four.
It’s funny to feel like Roy is underappreciated, especially in light of Mike Krzyzewski’s last decade of NCAA tournament underachievement (against seed expectation), but Duke (and Kansas) are 1- or 2-seeds every season, even during what should be roster transitions. That earns a ton of perception equity, and rightfully so. There are no 8/9 games or home NIT dates with William & Mary. Then again, those programs haven’t experienced en masse departures like North Carolina (although Kansas is facing one right now).
As ridiculous as it might sound for a Hall of Fame coach like Roy Williams, Glockner is correct. There tends to be some perception issues with how UNC is viewed despite having six Elite Eights, three Final Fours and two titles in eight seasons. The question is why does a coach and program with that kind of resume get perceived as being up and down? For one, it is because UNC does have seasons that are "down" compared to the others. Of course the three seasons in question all came after UNC lost three or more players to the first round of the NBA Draft. That sort of attrition is not easily overcome, even for Kentucky which can seemingly reload at will. As for the two teams mentioned by Glockner, Duke and Kansas, regular season consistency carries a lot of weight as does winning the league tournament which both these programs have done with frightening regularity.
In addition to that, the perception of Roy Williams coaching chops has something to do with how the program is perceived as a whole. Williams doesn't get the same sort of credit Tom Izzo, Bill Self, etc get when it comes to their team's success. Williams' success is because he gets elite talent which ignores the fact most teams making deep tourney runs have solid players. Yes you get the random mid-major runs to the Final Four but Izzo, Self, Mike Krzyzewski, Rick Pitino, etc, etc, etc. are not trotting out the Hickory Huskers. Maybe those coaches can do more with less compared to Williams but 2006 and 2013 should put an end to the notion Williams is not perfectly capable of making chicken salad out of you know what.
Glockner's ultimate point is that given what UNC returns next season and Williams' track record, it is safe bet the Tar Heels make another Elite Eight or better run which leads to a very interesting question.
Would you have guessed that? Neither would I. Wonder if Andrew Wiggins knows?