UNC Basketball: This season was Roy Williams’ best
I remember how rough 2003 was. Fans were just coming off the pain of 8-20, and seeing a team with a talented recruiting class flame out in the NIT was just too much to bear for fans coming off Dean Smith’s legacy. When it got out how the players and coach Matt Doherty weren’t getting along, it was the final straw.
Under that chaos, Roy Williams returned to the school he loved.
I think it’s fair to say that if you are attending school in Chapel Hill now or just got your diploma, you’ve known nothing but success in your fandom of UNC basketball. That Williams was able to rebuild this program after such chaos to this day doesn’t get enough credit, mostly because the guy in charge doesn’t seek it. Three national titles, five Final Fours, fourteen NCAA Tournament appearances of a possible fifteen, three ACC Tournament titles, and eight first place finishes in the ACC, all while having another Hall of Fame coach and dominant program a few miles down the road and playing in the toughest conference in the country. How many programs would kill for half of that?
With all that, I’ll say this: 2017-2018 was the best coaching job Roy Williams has done since taking over as head coach at UNC. This despite the fact that he added nothing to those numbers above, save the NCAA Tournament appearance.
Yesterday, Jake laid out the case for how the UNC team overachieved. For further proof, just examine these facts:
- No one this season averaged more than 20 points a game. Joel Berry was the leader at 17.1
- Five players averaged more than 29 minutes a game
- Only one player (Luke Maye) averaged more than 10 rebounds a game. He had 10.1
- Maye was also the leader in blocks, with 38. Carolina played 37 games
- The leader in assists (Theo Pinson) wasn’t the primary ballhandler
- Only two more players (Garrison Brooks and Sterling Manley) averaged double digit minutes
- The player with the most 3 point makes this season, Berry, averaged 3 makes a game.
- The draft ceiling for the two UNC seniors is the second round.
So, looking at this, would you have thought that this team could have ended up with a third place finish in the conference, a runner-up finish in the ACC Tournament, and a two seed in the NCAA Tournament? Yet, they not only did, they did it so well to where none of these results were a surprise by the time the season was done.
The moment you try to say anything about this to Williams, he will likely defer to Theo Pinson and Joel Berry II, as well as the rest of the team for continuing to grind. This is not an easy thing to do after winning a title, especially one that was so satisfying after the 2016 result. But that title is where his coaching job for this season begins.
It’s easy to forget in the haze of the end of the season, but once Justin Jackson and Tony Bradley declared for the NBA draft it was very clear that Carolina was going to be staring at some huge holes for the ‘17-’18 starting lineup. One important piece to that rebuild was Kevin Knox, who Roy went after hard right after the title. Sadly, he chose a darker shade of blue(and got one round further) and it created a fair amount of panic going into the season. At the time there were several good players coming in with Jalek Felton, Brandon Huffman, Sterling Manley, and Andrew Platek. All were expected to be long-term projects except Felton, and there were still some holes that needed to be filled.
Then fortune interceded and Garrison Brooks was released from his LOI from Mississippi State. With just about every other program out of places to put him, Williams was able to rekindle the relationship with the Lafayette, AL product, and he quickly joined the class. He was a huge get, a highly recruited four-star big man who fell in love with Chapel Hill and ended up starting in his first game. Then, another break when Cameron Johnson decided he wanted to leave Pittsburgh. Again, Carolina was in a position of being the highest profile program that had a place for him, and Williams was able to play the situation perfectly to land the grad transfer……
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