No. They shouldn’t.
Yes, last week’s 72-65 second round victory got a littttle bit closer than folks would have liked. Daggum Roy left plenty of fans scratching their heads all the reasons we have grown accustomed over the Williams era. Confusing substitution packages, misuse of timeouts, the fact that Luke Maye even exists (he really isn’t that bad, he’s just so easy to make fun of).
But the Heels got things done in the end, and if it takes a Joel Berry travel-charge-travel to do so then so be it. Like the talented gentleman of Lonely Island once said, “still counts!”
Now the Heels turn their attention to a Sweet 16 matchup with Butler in the lovely confines of the FedEx Forum in Memphis Tennessee, nothing but a good omen for the team. The last time UNC played in Memphis was 2009 during the NCAA regionals, en route to their championship that year.
Butler has become a scary team in March however, right? NCAA tournament appearances in 9 of the last 11 years, two final four victories, two runner up seasons, and inches away from potentially the greatest buzzer beater in NCAA history if Gordon Hayward buries that half courter against Duke in 2010. Unfortunately for Carolina, they themselves have since fallen on the wrong side of one of the greatest buzzer beaters in history.
Therein lays the beauty of this UNC tournament run. The Heels are hungry. Have they been playing perfect basketball as of late? No, far from it in fact. But they continue to find a way. One piece or another steps up every night. Kennedy Meeks exploded for 16 points and 11 boards in the Arkansas game, including that crucial late tip in. Justin Jackson can usually be counted on for his 18 or so points, but even on his off nights always seems to come up with the clutch shots when they are needed. Joel Berry II is a stud, and as long as that ankle injury doesn’t linger, will take over at least one of these remaining games and fill it up for 20 in a half. That is just how explosive this Carolina team can be. Even the role players can take over, we have seen it throughout the year, whether it is Hicks, Pinson, even Bradley or Maye have shown flashes and stretches of being able to carry the team.
So while we have yet to see the perfect game from Carolina since maybe the Miami victory in the ACC tournament, we know the Heels have that potential. Despite what the “Fire Roy” crowd may say, the team is well coached. Just maybe let’s see fewer lineups of Bradley, Maye, and Britt in there at the same time. Do us a favor and keep just a couple stars out there.
Going back to Butler real quickly, this is not the Butler team you once knew. This is not the Horizon League Butler (the Big East is a downgrade at this point, but that is not their fault), this is not Brad Stevens’ Butler. There is no Gordon Hayward. You know who is there? That pasty little leprechaun Tyler Lewis (who is actually pretty decent as a PG, leading Butler in assists, but no one takes him seriously), and two underwhelming big men. Kelan Martin and Andrew Chrabascz are the offensive driving force behind this Butler team, the top two scorers. They can shoot the three, just like this whole Butler team can, but they lack the size to really get going inside against the daunting low post of Carolina. Plus, Chris Holtmann is ready to jump on the first big job that opens up. So it’s going to come down to that three ball for Butler. We’ve seen UNC struggle against high volume three point teams throughout the season (see Duke) but at this point in the season, they have to have figured out some way to defend that by now.
Unfortunately, Carolina would be at such an advantage if they were on the other side of the bracket. The Heels would be much happier with a potential matchup with Wisconsin/Florida or Gonzaga/Xavier as opposed to Kentucky, UCLA or Kansas. I’m leaving Oregon out because Kansas is just not fair right now. I mean look at this.
Well Kansas is effing terrifying pic.twitter.com/kAWDSF4SIA
— Will Brinson (@WillBrinson) March 24, 2017
The Heels have one of the tougher roads going forward in the Big Dance, but the potential and ability of Carolina is still there as one of the best in the country. In one of the craziest NCAA tournaments I have ever experienced, with top seeds dropping left and right, UNC is on high upset alert. But don’t worry about it. They will be fine.