A Season to Forget: UNC 2009-10 (Part 1 of 2)

Only a season removed from a national title, North Carolina made the 2010 ACC season its two month-long walk of shame.

Pick a game. The 32-point loss at Duke is a good choice. Or maybe the 21-point beatdown at the hands of the Maryland Terrapins. Those are only two examples of the embarrassment that was the Tar Heels’ 2010 conference run.

Still M.I.A. is the team that beat Ohio State and Michigan State, and nearly knocked off Kentucky in the first month of the season.

There were times when Heels fans had to wonder if the players were being coached by Roy Williams or (gasp) Matt Doherty.

Memories of the Jason Capel-Kris Lang era were fond ones. That’s how bad it got.

The tires began to spin in a showdown with Texas, where the Longhorns exploded for 54 points in the first half en route to a 103-90 win. There were signs of disaster on the horizon in that game. Carolina rarely allows teams to top the century mark in a 40-minute game. What was worse was the missing sense of urgency throughout the game. There was no Tyler Hansbrough picking up his charges; no Ty Lawson going coast-to-coast, coming up with a clutch basket to spark the team.

Instead, the leadership responsibility fell on the shoulders of Marcus Ginyard and Deon Thompson. The pair of seniors graded out with a big fat “F” in that regard.

Can you blame them? For their entire career until this year, both players were overshadowed by legends. There was no need for them to act as leaders. They simply never learned how.

Marcus Ginyard went on record earlier this week to say the team was “screwed from the beginning.”

Even considering all the circumstances of the season, do you think those words would come out of Hansbrough’s mouth? Maybe it is unfair to compare Ginyard to the ACC’s all-time leading scorer, but at the same time it is completely reasonable. Ginyard is the senior leader for the University of North Carolina basketball team, and that figure never talks about how his team was screwed. Ever.

I don’t know what the opposite of retiring somebody’s jersey is, but anything the program can do to make sure Ginyard is completely forgotten would be appropriate.

There was no player perhaps in the country under as much scrutiny as Larry Drew II this season. The sophomore point guard finished third in the ACC with six assists per game, but also turned the ball over nearly twice per game.

Hearing people come to Drew’s defense this season is more annoying than hearing Tim Brandt say “splash” every time someone makes a three-pointer.

“Larry Drew is Larry Drew. Don’t ask him to be Ty Lawson,” is all I hear from Drew backers.

Sorry, but I’m going to ask Drew to by Lawson, and so is any other Tar Heel fan that shares the same standard for excellence as the program. Drew is an average point guard in the ACC, and that is not what the Tar Heel program was built on, especially under Roy Williams.

The Carolina offense is built around lightning fast point guards that handle the ball exceptionally well and make plays in transition. Drew fits the bill for none of that.

If Drew is satisfied with being an average ACC point guard and doesn’t want to hear all the criticism, he can go play across the highway in Raleigh, or down in Tallahassee; the standards are much lower there.

As long as he is carrying the load at the point for the Heels, he will need to improve tremendously before next season or the pressure on his shoulders will only grow.

Those are the biggest reasons why Carolina fell from greatness in 2010: zero leadership and poor point guard play.

There are plenty of other reasons the Heels finished lower in the ACC than ever before, but it started with those.

The other culprit who has fallen through the cracks of criticism so far this year is Ed Davis. Davis was expected to be a hands-down All-American this season, and he acted like it.

There has not been a post at UNC in decades that play as selfishly as Davis – except maybe Thompson (surprised?). Davis commanded the ball on many possessions, and along with Thompson often clogged the lane, ruining the Heels’ offensive rhythm.

When Davis went out for the year with a broken wrist, it allowed freshman John Henson to step into his more natural position at power forward. Henson was far less demanding on offense, and after adjusting to his starting role, began to produce nearly as effectively as Davis with half the headache.

Henson provided a similar shot blocking and rebounding presence as Davis, but proved to be a much better passer. Henson is also a better jump shooter, but never really showed it this season.

Collectively, Ginyard, Thompson and Davis failed to meet the standard level of basketball at North Carolina this season. For that, they will forever be remembered as the worst nucleus in program history.

The best way to move on from the debacle that was the 2009-10 season for Carolina is to tell Ginyard and Thompson to not let the door hit them on the way out, and give Davis all the encouragement he needs to turn pro.


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