I'll have more to write about this victory since Maryland has this week off so instead of starting with the analysis I'll give you an idea of what it was like to be at this game. It started on Saturday morning as I read the Fayetteville Observer (Fayetteville is a little more than an hour away from Chapel Hill) and the local newspaper mentioned the 109-75 drubbing that North Carolina gave Maryland in 2005. Incidentally I was at that game too. It is a painful memory. The article mentioned that something similar might happen that day and advised readers to expect to see Carolina's bench early in this game. There was also a blurb at the bottom of the page discussing the likelihood of an undefeated regular season for this UNC team. After reading that I had to ponder if hubris existed before Dean Smith came to Chapel Hill.
That 2005 Carolina team was superior to this 2008 squad in almost every facet. The 2005 Maryland squad was a mediocre defensive team that was coming apart at the seams with locker room dissension. I'm not going to pretend that I thought Maryland was going to win but I hardly thought the Tar Heels would post 100 points on a very solid Terrapin defense. The Terps may not always play smart but overall the defensive effort has been reliable the entire season. It isn't as if Maryland had not played any team of note. Maryland held UCLA to the lowest offensive efficiency rating of any team they played all season, including in the Bruins' two losses.
The fact that UNC had won its two prior ACC games on the basis of two last second shots, one that went in and one that didn't, didn't make them look like an unstoppable juggernaut. Everyone else at Carolina apparently agreed with the Fayetteville paper. Afterwards Tar Heel forward Danny Green even admitted that the team had taken Maryland lightly and didn't give them the respect they deserved. You got the feeling the Carolina fans streamed into the Dean Dome, the place was packed to the rafters in spite of some sketchy weather, with supreme confidence that they were going to watch an enjoyable destruction of a inferior opponent.
The sense of unease that came over the crowd as Maryland continued to battle and out hustle the Tar Heels was delightful. If you have never heard Carolina fans whine about the officiating while playing in the Dean Dome you will have missed out on one of the great pleasures in life. If you ever wondered why many long time Maryland fans have more dislike for North Carolina than Duke or Virginia that may give you some idea. The phrase "Carolina refs" existed before Coach K came around.
Late in the 2nd half when Carolina made its run and erased an eleven point lead by Maryland the Dean Dome was as loud as I have ever heard it. I don't have a large cross sections of games I've watched there but according to Ed Hardin of the Greensboro News & Record it was as loud as the Dean Dome has been in a long time. The only other game I can remember going to with that level of ear splitting volume was the Terps' 2005 overtime win over Duke at Comcast.
It was worth noting that North Carolina was previewing its new Carolina Basketball Museum for former players and other big wigs this weekend. The museum opens to the public on Tuesday. Many former Tar Heel greats were back in town for the festivities. I hope some of them from the 1986 team were there because as I sat in the Dean Dome I kept thinking of that sublime performance by the great Len Bias when Maryland upset another vastly superior North Carolina team.
It was one of the most satisfying wins I've ever experienced as a fan. It isn't clear what this team will make of this golden opportunity to turn their season around but for this moment anything seems possible. There was a great feeling of jubilation outside the Maryland locker room as friends and family waited for the players to come out after it was over. A small Maryland contingent was there to witness this game and I was lucky to be one of them.
On another note there was a North Carolina fan who sat in front of me about 10 rows from the floor behind the basket near Maryland's bench. As North Carolina climbed back into the game his reactions to their scores became more and more exaggerated. He was yelling at the top of his lungs and pumping his fists in the air. The fact that a man in his 60's with a baby blue sweater vest on made it look even more absurd. He then began to turn around and flex his muscles like a body builder and bellow like a Viking warrior. It got so absurd that I had to laugh. With Carolina clinging to a one point lead a few minutes left in the game North Carolina's other "Psycho T" got up and left with his wife to beat the traffic. It is too bad he left as I would have enjoyed the silence when his on court doppelganger clanged his last shot off the rim and Maryland's players raced to midcourt in celebration.
Former player Darien Henry was at the game along with a small contingent of mostly friends and family of the players.
Think this win adds some juice to the Blue Devils coming to town next week? Oh boy, the Castle will be rocking next Sunday.