Let's face it, preseason polls are the biggest joke in college sports. The idea to rank teams based on a mystical combination of returning players, incoming freshman and overall success from the previous year is completely flawed. When you peel back the layers, this process amounts to a useless popularity contest. The most hyped-up schools are always going to rank higher in the polls, and there's nothing anybody can do about it. That's why, even after a 16-16 regular season where abysmal play was the norm, the North Carolina Tar Heels found themselves ranked No. 8 in the country to kick off the year.
So much for that. Four games into the season and the "OVER-RATED" chants are already rolling in. That's because Roy Williams' team lost to Vanderbilt last night, a mere two days after dropping a game to Minnesota. You still think this is the eighth best team in the country? Try again, mindless voter. Sure, these weren't cakewalk opponents by any stretch, but Minnesota and Vandy are schools that North Carolina consistently pounds by 20 points in the past. Remember how the Heels were 4-0 with a win over Evan Turner's Buckeyes at this exact same point last season? And do you remember how they won just 42.8% of their games to finish out the year? Just sayin'.
In the last three recruiting classes, Williams has added eight elite-level high school prospects. Here they are in descending order, followed by their Rivals.com overall rank and class year:
- Harrison Barnes (#2 overall, 5-star)-2010
- John Henson (#5 overall, 5-star)-2009
- Reggie Bullock (#10 overall, 5-star)-2010
- Kendall Marshall (#32 overall, 4-star)-2010
- Tyler Zeller (#33 overall, 4-star)-2008
- Dexter Strickland (#34 overall, 4-star)-2009
- Leslie McDonald (#65 overall, 4-star)-2010
- Larry Drew (#71 overall, 4-star)-2008
Now tell me how in the world these eight players cannot combine to win basketball games against top 40 teams. The thought of having two or three top 100 players on a roster would be enough to get most coaches in America giddy with excitement. Roy Williams has more big time prospects than some mid-major conferences get in a decade. And somehow, every single one of these kids isn't living up to the hype. It's mind-blowing, really.
Larry Drew should be one of the best point guards in college hoops. Instead he has no idea how to run an offense and would probably lead the country in turnovers if he was playing 35 minutes a night. McDonald is a downright dreadful shooter and usually plays his way off the court after only a few minutes. Henson floated all throughout his freshman season without a clue in the world. Now the lanky freak athlete will be lucky to make the same type of impact as a sophomore that everyone was expecting out of him last year.
And then we have UNC's 2010 signing class, which was destined to underwhelm the second after Harrison Barnes was tabbed as a preseason First Team All-American selection. For the record, Barnes is going to be a phenomenal player over time. But hyping him up that much before he played a single game was utter blasphemy. And instead of blowing people away as the top freshman in the country after four games, the combo forward has simply looked "okay". If the rest of the Heels are content with moving over and letting Barnes' star power go to work, then they are in some serious trouble.
Knee-jerk reactions are always going to pop up, but a good deal of scrutiny definitely deserves to be pointed in Roy Williams' direction here. Because, quite honestly, where is the leadership on this team? I'm not sure I see any. Did Williams simply recruit all these kids because they were the highest ranked players available to him, or is he really trying to build a team? The latter aspect seems to be a lost cause when the ball actually tips off. Watching North Carolina play, it's obvious that Roy has absolutely zero confidence in any of these kids. Maybe that's why he's constantly going to his bench in search of a spark when turnovers and woeful shot-selection force his hand. So basically, the leader in the locker room can't seem to find a leader on the court. Not-so-good. Unless somebody steps up, the "OVER-RATED" chants might be here to stay.