CHAPEL HILL, N.C. – As the No. 9 North Carolina Tar Heels ride their five-game conference winning streak into Chestnut Hill on Saturday to face Boston College, there should be no reason for overconfidence.
Yes, the Eagles come into the matchup at 9-10 (2-4 ACC), which is the worst overall record in the conference - the only team out of 15 in the ACC with a losing record.
All signs seem to point to a UNC road victory, but head coach Roy Williams said he has had the perfect equalizer if he sensed overconfidence permeating through his team this week.
“I remind them of Atlanta,” Williams said at his press conference on Friday. “I say, ‘Guys, I don’t care what the crap happened, we’re as good as the last game. Let's play this game.’”
UNC’s 75-63 loss to Georgia Tech on Dec. 31 provided an early shock to the Tar Heels’ system, and according to Williams was, “about as bad as I’ve ever seen one of my teams play.”
They have since recovered, outscoring their last five opponents by an average of 18 points per game. Even with the recent success, the loss to the Yellow Jackets helps Williams’ emphasize his “one day at a time” approach.
“We do the best we can everyday and try to prepare for that team the best we can everyday,” he said. “It hasn’t been perfect by any means, but it’s stood the test of time if we keep getting better throughout the course of the season. I don’t ever sit back and say, ‘Oh we’re 5-1 now and we’ll win.’”
With Saturday’s tip-off with Boston College looming, Williams is still preaching to his team that there are no days off when you live in the ACC.
“Do it every day,” Williams said. “Do it every day… We’re going up there knowing that we have to play really well to be successful.”
What’s the status of Tony Bradley for tomorrow? “If he gets through practice okay today then he’ll play tomorrow… He practiced Wednesday and went through a shooting workout yesterday. I expect him to play.”
How will having Tony Bradley back help you? “Well you look at the stats that he had – he was shooting over 50 percent, his offensive rebounding totals were really good, I mean he’s been an effective player. Getting that back and not having to worry about every single foul…. I mean I played Theo (Pinson) and Justin (Jackson) at the four and the five at the game Saturday, first time I’ve ever done anything like that in 29 years of coaching. It was not pleasant. I was not happy doing it, not comfortable doing it.”
Has there been any lingering issues with Theo’s foot? “No. I think after the first game his foot was sore and we said we expected it to be because he hadn’t played. Other than that I think he’s been fine.”
Theo seems to be playing well as of late, do you see him moving into a starting spot or do you like him with the second squad? “He hasn’t told me yet by his play that he’s going to replace anybody, but he hasn’t said that he shouldn’t be considered for that. Right now we’re just trying to get him involved back in the action. It was a long time. I mean, 12 weeks or something like that without playing, so he’s only played three or four games.”
How do you go from the Georgia Tech game to now possibly being the hottest team in the ACC? “We’ve played better. That’s the easiest way to get from that point… I think Georgia Tech did the right thing and the good things and we stunk it up… When we came back I didn’t try to get on the waiver list and trade everybody. I just tried to get back to work and get better. I’m not ready to send any of them to the Spurs right yet, either. It’s a long season and it’s a marathon with a bunch of 400-yard sprints. Everybody was abandoning ship after the Georgia Tech game and now everybody is trying to get back on.”
Kennedy Meeks says he feels Isaiah Hicks’s game has improved because he’s been preparing better. Do you agree with that? “I don’t ever want to go on record saying that I agree with Kennedy, but I think Isaiah has really tried to prepare all year. He’s been great in the scouting reports… Just go to work and do your job. If you do it the right way I think you get better.”
Have you had a chance to put on the Michael Jordan shoes? “No, I haven’t. I have them at home, but I haven’t put them on. They’re pretty neat looking but I don’t have any idea what they are.”
Do your midseason recruiting trips still energize you and reinvigorate you a little bit? “It’s out of fear. I just feel like if I’m not doing that then somebody is getting out ahead of me. Saturday with Florida State I left an hour after the game and was on a plane for a total of six hours. Tuesday they were doing the shooting period and I was on the plane for four hours. Last night I was on the plane for five hours. I feel like it’s my job. I love watching kids play and trying to make the decision if they can be successful in the way we play and they can add something to the program.”
With today being Inauguration Day, what’s your relationship like with President Obama? “I have a great deal for admiration for him… I think there’s been some tremendous things that have happened during his presidency, so yes, I’m a President Obama fan. I think he’s done a tremendous job and is one of the best speakers I’ve ever heard. He likes basketball, he likes golf, so we have some things in common. He’s been very gracious to my team every time he’s been with my team. So I’m a President Obama fan and he’s a guy I admire a great deal.”