To keep with the spirit of Oscar season, however, we will accentuate the positive and focus only on the better performances, leaving the mediocre and downright ugly on the cutting room floor.
As it turns out, there have been quite a few performances that deserve applause (though perhaps not an acceptance speech). In a year in which the motion picture Academy is honoring a story about how a preposterous ruse facilitated a daring escape from a hostile regime, it's fitting that the Tar Heel Basketball Academy honors a story about how a preposterous small lineup facilitated a daring escape from the National Invitation Tournament.
Here then are your 2013 Tar Heel Oscar awards:
Best Performance in a Single Game: P.J. Hairston, 29 points, 7 rebounds, 8-14 shooting (6-12 from 3) in 29 minutes v. Virginia
Best Performance in a Single Half: (Tie) P.J. Hairston, 1st Half at Boston College; Marcus Paige 2nd half at home to N.C. State
Extra Time Effort Award for Best Performance in an Overtime Period: Marcus Paige v. Virginia Tech
Best Rebounding Performance: Reggie Bullock (13 boards) v. N.C. State (home)
Best Performer in Season to Date: Reggie Bullock—be it scoring, rebounding, defense, leadership and consistency, Bullock has done it all. This team is unimaginable without him.
Best Back-to-Back Efficient Distribution Performance by a Backcourt Tandem: Marcus Paige and Dexter Strickland, who combined for 24 assists against 3 turnovers in back-to-back wins over Georgia Tech and N.C. State. For those scoring at home, that's an 8:1 ratio.
Most Impressive Defensive Stat Line: Desmond Hubert, 6 rebounds, 5 blocks, 1 steal and no fouls vs. Georgia Tech (home) in 22 minutes
Let Me Show You How It's Done Free Throw Award: Marcus Paige, who has converted 18-of-19 free throws in the past three games, helping lift Carolina's substandard team performance from the foul line.
Most Pleasing Signature Play Award: James Michael McAdoo, for his patented, once-a-game or more steal on perimeter leading to a dunk on other end.
Fan Favorite Award: Jackson Simmons, who also would be in contention if we gave out a Fundamentally Sound Award—which in turn is a key reason he's a fan favorite.
Best Road Performance (Team): At Florida State, the win that stopped a slide and showed UNC could be highly competitive this year.
Best Overall Performance (Team): N.C. State (home). Honorable mention: UNLV (without Reggie Bullock).
Best Performance in a Losing Effort: Duke (away).
Best Adapted Screenplay: Roy Williams's adaptation of the novel "The 2010-11 North Carolina Tar Heels," featuring a midseason lineup change. The 2013 adaptation has some plot differences from the earlier version—this year's team is not going to win the ACC regular season, and displaced starter Desmond Hubert is not transferring to UCLA—but Williams should be overjoyed if his latest script concludes with the Tar Heels (as in 2011) reaching the second week of the NCAA Tournament.
The Academy would like to note that as the season is far from over, several awards are still vacant. Sadly, these awards are contingent on player performance, and may not be given every year. This year, all or none of these awards might be claimed by season's end. The awards still there for the taking include:
Truly Clutch Shot Award, given for a game-winning or game-tying shot Emerging Performer Award, given to a young player whose role on the team blossoms in the late season. (Leading candidate: Brice Johnson).
Don't Forget About Me Award, given to a veteran player who fights his way back from adversity and gives the team a lift in the late season. (Leading candidate: Leslie McDonald.)
Truly Impressive Upset Win Award (team), given for a win against a Top 10 team.
You Didn't See it Coming Award (team), given for a team that comes out of nowhere to unexpectedly win an ACC Tournament, reach the Sweet 16, or even reach the Final Four. Awarded on a very occasional basis.
Stay tuned for the last four regular season games plus tournament play to see if any of these last awards are earned, or if there are great individual and team performances that eclipse the best we've seen so far. With the team on an upswing, odds are that the best is yet to come.
Thad is the author of "More Than a Game: Why North Carolina Basketball Means So Much To So Many" (now available to be read for free online here: More Than a Game - ONLINE). A Chapel Hill native, he operated the manual scoreboard formerly located at the end of the UNC bench between the 1982-83 and 1987-88 seasons in Carmichael and the Smith Center. Thad wrote regularly for Inside Carolina and UNCbasketball.com from 1995 to 2005. He's an associate professor of leadership studies at the University of Richmond.