CHAPEL HILL, N.C. – The trendiest comment in college basketball these days is to say North Carolina is the nation's true No. 1 team, regardless of what the AP poll says. After all, the 14-1 Tar Heels' only setback was an opening-night loss to Santa Clara for which star guard Raymond Felton was suspended. Since then, the reasoning goes, no one has been better.
All of which isn't very fair to the nation's top two ranked teams, Illinois and Kansas, who are merely undefeated and often unbelievable in their own right.
But then again ... No. 3 Carolina 91, No. 8 Georgia Tech 69, Wednesday night here on Tobacco Road. The Tar Heels turned a much-hyped showdown of top-10 teams into a woodshed beating.
"This is a fun team to watch," UNC coach Roy Williams said postgame. "Even when it plays ugly it's a fun team to watch."
That Williams considers a 22-point win in which his guys hang 90-plus points on a top 10 team "ugly" tells you all you need to know about the Tar Heels. Yes, Wednesday's game was a bit sloppy. But this is ugly by supermodel standards only.
Carolina has won 14 consecutive games by a blistering average of 27.5 points and heads into Saturday's game at No. 4 Wake Forest looking nearly flawless. The Tar Heels are a rare combination of speed and size, bulk and beauty, experience and energy. When the Heels – or particularly Felton, the breathtaking point guard – are knocking down outside shots they are almost impossible to defend.
In this age of early departures, their starting five is a retro group consisting of two seniors and three juniors. In an era when the best recruits never show up on campus, Carolina boasts outrageously talented freshman Marvin Williams, who, should he choose to throw his hat in the ring, would be a lottery pick in this June's draft.
Not bad for a sixth man.
Unless Melvin Scott is the sixth man, in which case Williams actually is the seventh.
The reason the Heels are playing this well is that who starts or not hardly matters. What for years was a self-described "selfish team" is now a brotherhood of team-first, shoot-second harmony. Nobody seems to care which player gets the credit, just which team gets the victory.
Five Heels scored in double figures Wednesday. They grabbed 17 offensive rebounds in the first half.
"We're just playing the right way right now," junior forward Sean May said. "In the conscience of every player is to get a win, not get individual glory."
"[We've gone] from being the most selfish team I've ever been a part of," Scott said, "to the most selfless team I've seen."
The message even has gotten through to the enigmatic Rashad McCants, a ferocious forward who has frustrated everyone with his fluctuating moods. But in a nationally televised game with scores of NBA scouts in the house on Wednesday night, McCants happily took just seven shots.
That doesn't happen a year ago.
"I think it is more fun now because I enjoy seeing my teammates celebrate, seeing my teammates smile," he said. "We have a good team, so I don't have to shoot."
Williams has molded this team into a monster. UNC looks every bit as good as any team Williams had during 14 years at Kansas when he reached four Final Fours.
"They could be the best team in the country," Tech coach Paul Hewitt said.
See, there they go again.
- Tar Heels
- Raymond Felton