by Kevin Burton
North Carolina head basketball coach Hubert Davis, hurting after his team coughed up a 16-point lead and the NCAA tournament final to Kansas last April, nevertheless had gracious words for his players.
“I can’t be more proud of the group that I just coached this year,” Davis said in a post-game interview. “I told them that I desperately wanted them to have experiences and stories and testimonies of their own, and along the ride, they added more stories and testimonies and memories for me as a coach. For that, I’m thankful.”
What a difference a year makes.
After posting a 20-13 record this season and losing in the ACC tournament quarterfinals, North Carolina was left out of the field of 68 for this year’s Big Dance. The school and its coach then petulantly refused an invitation to the NIT, the second most prestigious post-season tournament.
The testimonies that bunch left this year, are an embarrassment.
Too good to play in the NIT.
Here is what Sports Illustrated reporter Andy Nesbitt had to say Sunday, in an article under the headline, “North Carolina Looked So Lame For Immediately Declining NIT Invitation.”
“The men’s NCAA tournament field was revealed Sunday night, with 68 teams getting their names called to join the beauty that is March Madness, which kicks off this week and concludes with the Final Four in Houston the first weekend of April.”
“One storied program that didn’t get its name called was the North Carolina Tar Heels. Hubert Davis’s team, which played in the national championship game just a year ago, was one of the last four teams left out of the tournament,” Nesbitt wrote.
“That wasn’t a huge shocker because the Tar Heels didn’t have a great season – they finished the year with a 20-13 record and lost to Virginia, 68-59, in the quarterfinals of the ACC Tournament.”
“What did come as a surprise happened moments after Sunday’s selection show when Davis and the program released a statement saying they wouldn’t be playing in the NIT.”
Here’s the statement:
“All season our focus and goal have been on being the best team we can possibly become and reaching our full potential to give us another opportunity to compete, play for and win an NCAA Championship.”
“Although we no longer have that opportunity and our season wasn’t what we had hoped for, I want to thank our players and staff for their hard work and love for Carolina basketball.”
“Many factors go into postseason play and we believe now is the time to focus on moving ahead, preparing for next season and the opportunity to again compete for ACC and NCAA championships.”
“I also want to thank our great fans for their incredible support. Our commitment to you is what drives us to improve our program in every way. Hubert Davis.”
“That’s a bad look for a number of reasons,” Nesbitt wrote.
“1. The timing of it was horrible. It was like they couldn’t wait to yell out like a frustrated child that they weren’t happy and they were going to throw a fit and refuse to go anywhere else if they couldn’t go to the one place they really wanted to go.”
“2. Using that many words to describe your plans is never good. You never want to be one of those “tl;dr” memes and that’s exactly what that lengthy statement should become.”
“3. UNC should accept the invitation to the NIT and have some fun with it – let the players play with each other for a little while longer and use the games to get some lesser-used guys some valuable minutes in games that matter.”
“4. Saying your commitment to your fans is what drives you the most and then not playing in games that your fans might enjoy is pretty easy to see right through. Empty words at the end of an empty statement. Not great.”
“5. It just makes the whole program look soft.”
“Seriously, this was really poorly handled by the Tar Heels and they deserve all the shots that are being taken at them in the replies to that tweet,” Nesbitt wrote.
Some of those shots:
From Hedge House Trading: “Wow. This is soft. A disgrace to the game and the program.”
From Chris: “I think it was supposed to say: ‘While we did not meet our expectations this season, it is an honor and privilege to wear the Carolina uniform . We would never pass up an opportunity to compete, even one more time, in Carolina blue. We can’t wait to see you and hear you in the Dean Dome.”
From Hacked Bracket: “No one would deny UNC is a bona fide Blue Blood, but this reeks of arrogance.”
Since Oklahoma State was deemed the number one overall seed in the NIT, I can only guess that their opponent, Youngstown State, was the last team let in, the team that benefitted from North Carolina’s arrogance.
If so, I say, go Penguins. Enjoy the experience. Wear the uniform proudly. May the ball bounce tour way this week.