The hardest part about being a fan of any sport is watching your beloved team (or teams) have a bad year or a bad few weeks. I'm thankful for Peyton Manning and the Colts for giving me something to celebrate this last couple of weeks since my beloved Tar Heels have hit a rough patch.
I'm a die hard fan, but I'm also objective enough to admit when my team isn't perhaps the best out there, and I've said all season long although this is a good team, they're not the National Championship team. I never expected them to win a repeat Championship this year.
That said, anyone who follows the sport has to admit that this team has really disappointed as of late.
The same can be said of the Madison High School wrestlers. They're so talented, but lately their lack of discipline and drive has really showed. Today was better. They placed four guys on the podium at the John Berry Invitational. Two 3rd place finishes, one 5th & one 6th. But given the talent level on this team it's still not where they should be finishing. It's frustrating to watch because I can sit up in the stands and watch the matches and see the mistakes they're making and rather than keep going half the time it's like they just roll over and give up.
Kind of like my Tar Heels the last two weeks. Although discipline is not a problem with any Roy Williams coached team, they've struggled with injuries, although that in itself shouldn't have been enough to merit 3 straight losses. They started this season with a certain amount of swagger. Coming off that National Championship, no one expected them to repeat, but they were expected to be a handful. And they were at first. (Just ask Michigan State.) But ever since conference play began they've just looked lost. Somehow that hunger and desire has morphed into something more like "Oh Crap, these guys are beating us! What do we do now!?!?!?!?" Part of that is their lack of experience. This is a young team. They lost a lot of leadership this year. But still, they have guys who were there last year and the year before. I know Tyler's gone, and he left some huge shoes to fill, but someone needs to step up and stamp their own brand of leadership on this team.
They finally won one against NC State the other night, so I'm hopeful that this is the start of an upswing that will have them tearing through the second half of their conference season. I guess we'll see against Virginia tomorrow night. If they come to play and gut it out until the end, they shouldn't have problems. If they get in a little scoring drought and start to freak out and shut down like they did last week, then we've got major issues.
I don't expect them to win another title. I never did. (Well, not for a year or two anyway.) But I'll repeat what I said a month ago, this is an extremely talented team. They've got everything they need to be able to run with any team in the country. Right now their problems aren't physical, they're mental. And they need to just get out of their own heads and start playing Carolina basketball. If they do that, then they could make a pretty deep run in March and do some major damage to everyone's tournament brackets.
And if they don't.....Well....I don't even like to think about that. Because if they don't snap out of this funk quickly they might be in danger of not even making the tournament. And to Carolina fans, that's pretty much the 7th circle of hell. After all, we do own the longest tournament appearance streak in the nation. (Not to mention the most Final Four appearances.) It's simply unacceptable for us not to be there!
Tomorrow's game will be a good barometer. On paper we should run Virginia right out of their gym. But everyone knows, the game isn't played on paper.
As for other teams that have caught my eye in the absence of a show stopping year by my boys in blue, there are a few that I'm watching with interest. Everyone is talking about Kentucky & Kansas. And that's fine.
But I'm keeping an eye on Purdue. Although conference play hasn't been as kind to the Boilers as they would have hoped, I can't count them out yet. They've got very experienced players with loads of talent and a couple of guys who can really shoot the lights out.
Villanova seems to be the forgotten team from last year's final four. A lot of people discount their size, but let's remember that they did make it to the final four last year with that same size. They have a lot of experience and some of the quickest guards in the country.
I almost hate to jump on the BYU bandwagon. This is a team that has had tons of potential for the last few years. They seem to do excellent in the early season, falter a little in conference play, and then come back just enough to get a solid mid-seed in the tournament, only to flame out in the first game. But after watching Jimmer Fredette put up 27 points in what was eventually their first loss after 15 wins, I have to admit that I'm intrigued. Intrigued enough to pencil them in as a potentially devastating team in the tournament, if they can keep it together.
And finally Syracuse. They made a big statement early in the year with huge wins over Ohio State, UNC and others. And everyone realized this was an underrated team. Then, as happens to all teams at some point, they lost one. But just one. I still think they're arguably the most talented team in the country. I've watched them come from way behind a couple of times this season. When other teams would roll over and die at 14 or 18 down, the Orange just refuse to quit. (I wish some of that attitude would rub off on my Tar Heels this year!) And they have a solid Player of the Year candidate in Wesley Johnson. That kid is amazing! And he's so fun to watch play!
So that's the update for now. Remember that just because I haven't been boring you all with my usual rantings about my sports, doesn't mean that I don't care. I still do. And I'm still here. And believe me, I've been watching with my usual baited breath. (Okay, not baited breath, pacing, yelling at the TV, pounding the floor, kicking the couch and in general turning into a baby blue Hulk especially during losses!) Be glad you're not here it's not pretty!