Last night, the Heels redeemed themselves with an 81-67 victory over the Devils. It wasn't just redemption for the loss earlier this year in Cameron. It was for last year's 32-point loss on dook's Senior Night. It was for all of last season, when the Heels lost 17 games and went 5-11 in the ACC.
This season looked bleak when the Heels lost two early games in Puerto Rico... even bleaker when they got blown out at Illinois... and basically over when they got waxed by one of the ACC's worst teams, Georgia Tech. The Wear twins transferred before the season, leaving the team with such little post depth that Justin Watts had to play the 4. Will Graves got caught smoking pot (again) and was dismissed from the team, taking away the only legitimate three-point threat from an already poor outside shooting team. Then, Larry Drew transferred mid-season, leaving the Heels with one true point guard.
Somehow, this team fought through all of that to become ACC regular season champs. I still don't know quite how it happened, but I do know I'm proud of this team.
I could go on and on about the victory, but if you care enough to read this, you know what happened. Unlike last time these two teams met, this time the better team won. Enough said.
Going forward, my only concern is that the Heels don't lose focus. Beating dook is special, but it shouldn't define a season. This team still has great things to accomplish if it sets its mind to do so. I think back to the 2006 team that overachieved and beat dook the last game of the regular season on Redick's Senior Night. After that win, those Heels couldn't seem to gain the same intensity through any of the postseason. That's the double-edged sword of such an intense rivalry. When you put so much of yourself into that game, it's hard to keep it up when you follow it up by playing someone other than dook. My hope is that these Heels don't make the same mistake.
Last night sure was fun, though... wasn't it?