Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Tar Heels Tarred and Feathered

"Tar Heels Tarred and Feathered"

By Sonny Palermo,

Oh, how the mighty have fallen.

One year ago they were the last man standing, triumphantly cutting down the net.

This year, they couldn’t find a net if they were a dolphin in tuna filled waters off the coast of Japan.

Last year, the North Carolina Tar Heels won the NCAA men’s basketball championship. This season, they have a 3-7 record in conference, and are barely over .500.

It’s difficult to repeat as champions in any sport, at any level. Gluttony, age, lack of hunger, free agency, trades, salary dumps and salary increases all contribute to making the climb to the top of the mountain a tough act to repeat. But most championship teams have, at the very least, a winning record the year after they win it all. The Steelers may not have made it to the playoffs following their super bowl win, but at least they finished at 9-7.
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Of course, pro teams don’t have to deal with something NCAA teams experience – graduation and/or early entry into the pro ranks. You would expect that a prominent team such as the Tar Heels – only UCLA and Kentucky have won more championship titles – could easily reload on recruited talent. But they were faced with the near impossible task of replacing such stars as Ty Lawson (Denver Nuggets), Tyler Hansbrough (Indiana Pacers), Danny Green (Cleveland Cavs) and Wayne Ellington (Minnesota Timberwolves.)

Still, the Heels have really fallen from grace. They currently sit at number 79 in the RPI and are highly unlikely to make the tournament, with the toughest part of their schedule yet come: Florida State (18-7), Miami Fla. (17-8), Georgia Tech (17-8) Duke (21-4) and Wake Forest (18-5). The only break they get comes in the form of the 12-13 BC Eagles.

And last week the Tar Heels suffered another blow, this one probably the KO punch - they lost their number two scorer, Ed Davis, for six weeks, joining big men Ty Zeller and Travis Wear, who are already out with injuries.

That, along with the tough schedule, probably seals the deal for NC - no tournament this year. After winning it all last season the only thing the Tar Heels can play for is pride – staying out of the cellar of the ACC (they have only one more conference win than cellar-dwellars and rivals NC State) a far cry from cutting down the nets just eleven months ago, a short period of time really, but one that must seems like ages to North Carolina players and fans.

*North Carolina is 14-11 SU, and has been a poor investment for bettors this season at 8-15 ATS. They have lost 4 of their last 5 vs. the spread, and 10 of their past 13. With last year’s championship just a fading memory and the tournament out of reach, look for this team to close out the season in similar fashion.

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