Last night I had the distinct pleasure of watching North Carolina’s designated game in the annual ACC/Big 10 challenge against Michigan State. Now, Michigan State is ranked #12, so I was really looking at this as our next big challenge. We’d already played a top 10 team in Notre Dame during the Maui Invitational and we did pretty well against them. Still, I was slightly nervous and I even walked away from the game for a few minutes with 7 minutes left in the 1st half. I was frustrated because there was this guy on the Michigan State team who kept knocking down 3’s and Bobby Frasor was guarding him. No matter how many times Bobby stuck his hand in the guy’s face, he still made the shot. So, I was frustrated because I felt like someone else at that point should have been assigned to him…someone who could keep him from getting good looks from the behind the arc. In moments like that I just take a breather…a time out, if you will.
Well I came back to roughly a 20 point lead that increased over the 2nd half to 30 and eventually a 35 point win. Round about the 25 point lead mark, I start looking around at other things on the court. The game was played at Ford Field, home of the Detroit Lions. Apparently, the Tar Heels scored more points last night than Detroit has scored all season combined…only by 5 points, but still. Anyway, Ford Field is also the site of the 2009 Final Four and is designed with the court surface raised. Detroit was one of the regional sites in last year’s March Madness, so I’d seen this before, but I wasn’t fond of it then. The benches for each team are down 3 apparently very steep stairs from the court, so naturally I worry about injury if a player goes flying off the edge of the court to keep a ball in bounds. It happened to one of the Michigan State players, but thankfully he was able to keep his balance and not injure himself.
Anyway…I continue to notice other things in the midst of this phenomenal game that the Tar Heels are playing. For instance, Tyler and Bobby need haircuts. The end of the bench is so far out of sight that you can barely even see our two injured players, Tyler Zeller and Marcus Ginyard in their suits. Roy had a veritgo spell last night. Usually I don’t notice these in the midst of the game, but when the camera stayed on him at one point, I saw the whole thing. I worry about that, too. Keep thinking he’s just gonna pass out mid-game one day. Anyway, this is all interesting to me because I have an opportunity to see other things that during an intense, close game I’d never see. I do notice that the team seems to be having fun this year. They’re still making some mistakes that frustrate me, but the thing they’re not doing is beating themselves. Watching Ty Lawson’s speed is one of my favorite parts of a game. That boy can get up and down the court faster than well just about any college player in the country…and his teammates aren’t far behind him.
I also enjoy that when we are winning by a large margin, the walk-ons get to play. Marc, JB, Patrick, and Jack have been with the team for a couple years now. They get about 4 or 5 minutes a game when we’re winning handily, and they play with the same intensity as the scholarship athletes. In fact, sometimes they look like they’re out there playing to win the game…like it’s on the line and we’re down by 2 and they have to make this shot or we lose the game. These guys worked their butts off to make the team, and most of the time, they just have the best seat in the house for the main attraction. But in moments like last night, their family and friends get to hear big time ESPN announcers say their names. It’s just incredible to think of all the people who have gone through the Tar Heel Basketball program and then to think that JB Tanner’s name is in the same media guide with Michael Jordan’s. CRAZY!
This Tar Heel basketball season will be fun to watch, whether high intesity, close games or blowouts. I’m just glad they’re taking us along for the ride.