Carolina bracing for its toughest challenge of year at Virginia, while rebounding from frustrating postponement of Miami game

By Jerry Ratcliffe

armando bacot unc

Armando Bacot goes up for two in UNC’s 91-87 win at Duke. Photo courtesy Atlantic Coast Conference.

After one of his most frustrating weeks off the court during his career, North Carolina coach Roy Williams said the Tar Heels are bracing for “the biggest challenge we’ll have all year long, no question,” at No. 9 Virginia on Saturday night.

Williams’ frustration stemmed from the postponement of last Monday night’s home game against Miami, which was called off last minute after videos appeared on social media of some of the Carolina players celebrating their win over rival Duke. Those at the gathering were not socially distanced or wearing masks.

When Miami, eating its pre-game meal in Chapel Hill, discovered the video, the Hurricanes became uncomfortable playing the game because of potential Covid-19 issues and the ACC announced two hours before the game that both teams had mutually agreed to postpone.

UNC’s Armando Bacot and Day’Ron Sharpe were pictured partying without masks along with other students who also weren’t wearing masks. A follow up apology stated that those two players and managers weren’t along, that a number of players and managers got together along with several friends.

“I can’t ever remember anything that frustrated me like this,” Williams said in a zoom conference with media on Friday. “I’ve never had a game postponed like that. It was not my favorite moment.

“From midnight Saturday night, when I stopped thinking about our game against Duke and started focusing on Miami … from that time until the last 24 hours or so, was something I did not enjoy. I don’t ever want to go through it again. We’re trying to move on and put it behind us.”

It was yet another postponed game that Williams wanted to play because of so many interruptions to UNC’s schedule this season. The Tar Heels have played 18 games this season, are 12-6 overall and 7-4 in the ACC.

“We really want to reschedule those games,” Williams said. “Guys, we’re sitting here on Feb. 12 and we’ve played six home games. There’s not too many teams around the country, if any, that have played only six home games. Right now, we’re going to play 10 road games in the league and eight home games. That’s not very good.”

The Carolina coach said the school’s administration is doing everything it can to have some of these games rescheduled, and is talking to the ACC office to see if it canmake something happen. If not, Williams is willing to look elsewhere.

“I am of the opinion if [the ACC] doesn’t do it, I’m willing to play somebody else,” Williams said. “A lot of teams in the country don’t have as many games as they want. We’re not to the point to call people to see if they want to play. We’re giving the ACC office the opportunity to talk to both parties in every situation and see if we can reschedule some of the games.”

Williams said two games a week is nice but that some of his past teams have played three games a week several times.

His main quest is to play as many ACC games as possible and believes that the Heels have a schedule among the top 25 or 30 in the country. Still, 18 games and 71 practices doesn’t add up in Williams’ mind. He said he isn’t worried about the NCAA Tournament at this point, but just getting in as many league games as UNC can.

While Williams reported that he plans to bring a 100 percent healthy, full squad to Charlottesville (the Heels were scheduled to bus up from Chapel Hill after Friday’s practice and dinner), he declined to disclose punishment for the players that participated in the celebration that caused the Miami postponement.

“I said we would handle it internally, and that’s what we’ve done,” Williams told media during the Zoom conference. “This will be the only statement. Ask another question about what happened this weekend, and you can just forget it.

“It was not at a fraternity house. It was not on Frankline Street. It was within our group of players and managers and very few other people got involved.”

As Williams often does, he reverted to his cornpone humor to get his points across about the degree of seriousness concerning the situation.

“It’s something that I don’t think Jeff Lebo would mind me saying this, but I told Jeff Lebo (former Tar Heel) that our team did the same thing he did a hundred times, but there was nobody putting it on video,” Williams said. “I was upset about it, I’m still upset about it, but let’s not make it out like we charge the Capitol building or something like that. It was not a freestanding party at some fraternity house.

“It was handled appropriately. If anybody else wants to talk about anything else regarding that, just say so and we’ll all go and eat a sausage biscuit or something like that because we’ve made enough statements. I didn’t like some of the things that happened but also didn’t like some of the ways our kids were portrayed.”



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