It hit me as I was driving back from Lexington on Saturday that while the last couple of weeks have not on the surface been the best ones for Carolina Basketball, the signs seem to be pointing in a very positive direction. The signs are there – and I am pretty sure they can be trusted.
Sign One – Little things are reverting to the ways of old
I think some folks' memory of the true origin of the "Blue" team may be a little off. The Blue team was a reaction exactly like the one we saw from Roy Williams in the first few moments of the UK game – an attempt to increase the level of effort and make a point. It was, however, so successful at the time that it actually became good strategy and a crowd favorite that season for Dean Smith. The same point was being made on Saturday: "Play as hard as you can, or I will put someone else in who will."
Sign Two – Rashad's Star
Everyone has seen his star, and the consensus is that it is falling. I have two words for that assessment – Vince Carter. If I am not terribly mistaken, things were eerily similar for Air Canada when he was a freshman languishing on Dean Smith's bench. I think I also recall some pouting, talk of transfer, and odd comments from a parent about that time. Make no mistake, this year's group of sophomores are almost going through another freshman year with the complete change of approach this season.
I am no expert or psychologist, but my sense is that this situation will iron itself out on the strength of Roy Williams' talent for teaching and guiding young people. In many cases, those who rebel against authority and discipline – and expectations – are the ones who need it the most, and eventually profit greatly from it.
There is only one coach at Carolina, and he could play the trombone player from the pep band at the 3-spot if he saw fit to do so – it's not like job security is an issue. Rashad McCants is more than capable of re-earning his spot and time on the court. When he goes out and does it, watch out – he may become a better player than any of us (even himself) have imagined.
Sign Three - Billy Packer
If Billy Packer thinks it's all going to heck in a hand basket, things are probably headed the right direction. Thankfully, I was spared his two-hour diatribe on everything wrong with the Heels due to my drive home from Lexington. Yet, every time Billy starts to really whale on Carolina, it usually means that something good is on the verge of happening. I generally don't find myself annoyed by Billy – I would hate to find myself his age and so seemingly bitter – but the consensus is that this time he went a little far with his attacks on McCants. My advice to all involved is to remember how often he criticized Dean Smith for moves during games, and how often Billy looked silly when they worked to perfection.
Okay, maybe these signs mean something, and maybe they don't – I'm not a farmer. All I can say is that what we have seen in the last two weeks is not altogether dissimilar to things we have seen in Carolina's storied past. Leaves turn over in expectation of rain, cows lay down before a big storm – and for Carolina, the really good basketball is somewhere in the air, and just around the corner.
Senior writer Mike McCracken is also the founder of Tar Heel Moments, which launched this year with the signed lithograph, "Victory on Senior Day," featuring Phil Ford. For more info, head to www.tarheelmoments.com