One thing has been constant, however. The crowd at the Smith Center has been amazing each time the Heels have taken the floor. Given 8-20 and this season's struggles, I am amazed at the support the team has received on its home court. You better believe those players and coaches are truly grateful for that support during these tough times.
While we are on the subject of the Smith Center crowd, in the aftermath of the win over Georgia Tech, I'm not so sure I understand why more than a few Carolina ‘fans' expressed negative thoughts about the students rushing the floor following the win. Considering what the program has endured, justly or unjustly, from the media and a sizable portion of the fan base, a lost to Tech would have been devastating. To pull out a win, any win, under that pressure, was a huge relief for everyone and it showed. So what if it was Georgia Tech. So what if the Jackets sport an awful record on the road. The game is ultimately about the kids that play and the kids that support their classmates and to see them in a state of euphoria, if only for that moment, was a welcome sight to this writer. David Noel's comment after the game says it all…"A lot of things have been going on in this program and no one really knows what the end is going to be - for us to get a big win like this and take our minds off of things like that - it's great, it's really great."
It was good weekend to be a Carolina fan, especially if you are the NBC (Nobody but Carolina) type. From the amount of ABCer's (Anybody But Carolina) out there, I'm surprised when I hear any Carolina fan express anything but total disdain for teams other than those in light blue. Folks in Raleigh and Durham have waited many long years for the Heels to struggle on the hardwood as they have the past couple of seasons and they aren't shy in expressing their glee. But this past weekend, if but for two days, the world righted itself. Carolina pulled off a mini miracle while Duke and State folded like cheap suits. Non-Duke fans had to love seeing the Blue Devils bitten by the "phantom ref" that has snuck up on the Tar Heels quite a few times of late. As I said after the Heels lost to Iona and nearly had the St. John's game taken from them in the Garden, play a New York school in that famed arena at your own risk.
Carolina heads to Wake Forest tonight and once again has the honor of being the opponent du jour as a special player says his Senior Game good byes to his home crowd. Josh Howard, like him or loathe him (and I can't imagine too many non-Wake fans fall into the first category – generally another sign that he's a big timer), is and has been the consummate college basketball player in his time at Wake. Given his stats this season (ACC scoring leader at 19.6 and third in rebounding with 8) and his impact on the game, he is without question the ACC's Player of the Year. Should he get anywhere close to the 32 he hung on Carolina last month, things could get ugly for the Heels in Winston. The Lawrence Joel crowd, Howard and the Deacs would like nothing better than to make that happen.
Speaking of seniors, probably the most under-appreciated senior class in Carolina history says goodbye Sunday in the Smith Center. In a day and age where players are accused of gambling on their own games (see McPherson/FSU), coaches and alleged corruption go hand in hand (see Harrick/Georgia), and every waking moment of a player is spent under a microscope, Johnson and Holmes typify what the college basketball player experience is all about – giving their all on the court, doing so with respect for the game all the while excelling in the classroom and making a positive impact on the community. They do not get much attention, but they deserve a mighty Smith Center ovation before Sunday's game. If you have a ticket, get there early and give Will and Jonathan just that.
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