Wednesday, January 30, 2013

North Carolina 82, Boston College 70: A Fan's Take

The reason for our trek to Boston last night?  North Carolina was there.  (Photo courtesy of the author's personal collection)

This recap will be somewhat different from some others you may see on here, as it is written after watching a game as a fan for a change.  As friends of the website Gary Moore and Jerry Beach so often do, I last night was in the stands to watch a game that I would ultimately offer my opinions and analysis of, and last night's ACC affair between North Carolina; the team I have been a die-hard fan of when I saw them win the 1993 national championship in the first college basketball game a then six-(soon to be seven-) year-old me ever watched start to finish, and Boston College, squared off in Chestnut Hill.

I wasn't making the trek to the Conte Forum outside Boston alone, as joining me on the trip were St. Francis College women's basketball sports information director Brian Morales, Iona College women's basketball play-by-play announcer (and former producer of mine at St. Francis) Nick Guerriero, and their friend Rufat "Squig" Zarbailov.  After a long and entertaining pregame that included a tour of Boston and a couple of local watering holes, not to mention the requisite (for me at least, since I'm a huge fan of the show) visit to the Bull & Finch, where "Cheers" was filmed, we made it into the arena moments before the opening tip.

Following an 8-2 Boston College run to open the game, North Carolina quickly took control and built up a 48-33 halftime lead en route to an 82-70 win against an Eagles team that is still trying to find their way in the ACC under third-year head coach Steve Donahue.  For all the immediate success Donahue found in Chestnut Hill upon taking the job on the heels of a Sweet 16 appearance at Cornell in 2010, he has yet to replicate the magic that resulted in an NIT trip with former Al Skinner recruits Reggie Jackson and Corey (Green Bay Packers defensive tackle B.J.'s brother) Raji, not to mention one-time Vermont transfer and underrated player in general Joe Trapani.  Here are the nuggets that stood out to me while taking it all in:

- Since meeting Gary Moore in December 2011 and following his tweets at @gmoore21566, I have taken a greater interest in the pep bands of schools, and Boston College's band stood out right away.  The Eagle band plays more modern selections than most other bands, as evidenced by Ke$ha's "Die Young," Neon Trees' "Everybody Talks," and the One Direction hit "What Makes You Beautiful" being included in their repertoire.  The BC band also threw in classics such as Kansas' "Carry On Wayward Son," Coldplay's "Viva La Vida," (appropriate since the New York Rangers won last night as well, and "Viva La Vida" had been played following Ranger victories for several years at the Garden before the Rangers switched to Flo Rida's "Good Feeling" for reasons I can't explain) and the Dropkick Murphy's anthem "I'm Shipping Up To Boston," but lost all their credibility with the 4-minute media timeout rendition of "Gangnam Style" late in the game.  Must we really suffer through that?

- Back to the game if I may: P.J. Hairston left the game early in the second half with a concussion after being inadvertently elbowed by teammate Dexter Strickland under the rim, and was carted off on a stretcher.  Hairston had stood up after the blow, but immediately fell again, prompting me to suspect the concussion that was later confirmed on the North Carolina Twitter feed.  In almost 27 years, it was the scariest injury I have ever seen live, as Hairston was down on the court for several minutes, and also the first time I'd ever seen someone leave on a stretcher. (You can see the collision between Strickland and Hairston at the 27 and 33-second marks of this highlight video:)

- The fact that North Carolina managed 82 points despite just getting eight from sharpshooter Reggie Bullock was a pleasant surprise, but the young Tar Heels will be very frustrating to watch as they close games out down the stretch.  I particularly enjoyed watching them play through their inexperience, as head coach Roy Williams did not call a timeout in the second half.  This is what this team needs to do to further mature and improve, as North Carolina has historically been slow to develop in a season following a deep run into the NCAA Tournament, with the 2005 and 2009 national championships as well as last year's Elite Eight appearance being prime evidence of this trend.  Carolina ended 2006 and 2010 with a Round of 32 exit from the NCAA Tournament at the hands of George Mason and NIT runner-up finish to Dayton in those respective seasons; and at 14-6 with only one quality win to their credit, the Tar Heels are squarely on the bubble at the moment.

- James Michael McAdoo (17 points and 10 rebounds last night) was North Carolina's leading scorer and is for the season as well, but in his sophomore season, the de facto star of the team has still yet to prove himself as a bona fide team leader.  It has seemed like the Tar Heels have received greater contributions from Reggie Bullock this year, especially in crunch time and clutch situations, therefore he should be Carolina's primary option.

- Finally, J.P. Tokoto didn't play much, (just three points in only 13 minutes) but has provided North Carolina with indispensable energy and efficient shot selection in every game this season.  If Williams uses his skills more often and gives him the chance to fully develop sooner rather than later, the 6-5 swingman from Wisconsin with mounds of potential is going to be really good and something special for this team, perhaps in the mold of the similarly built Danny Green, an integral piece to the 2009 championship puzzle.

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