Confidence and a bit of cockiness in anticipation of UNC basketball season

November 7, 2018

Luke Maye (32) of the North Carolina Tar Heels. Late Night with Roy prepared Tar Heel fans for the 2018 college basketball season with games, dancing and scrimmaging at the Dean Dome on Friday, October 12th, 2018. (Photo By: Lexi Baird / WRAL.com)

Just before the Heels kicked off against Cal to open the season, I wrote a column describing the mixture of feelings I was experiencing as I awaited another year of football. In hindsight, my 30 percent excitement and 20 percent happiness may have been overstated. My 10 percent hope was also a little on the high side. And the 3 percent optimism? At the time, I truly felt that was a conservative percentage, but in retrospect, that too was vastly inflated.

Now that I’ve told you how horrible I did at this on the first attempt, I’m happy to report I’m giving it another go. Only this time I’ll be deconstructing the individual ingredients of the feeling I had as basketball season approached this year.

(Full disclosure, this column was literally due at tip-off of the Carolina-Wofford game, so as I type this, I have no idea how it turned out. Yet as you read this, you know exactly what happened. I’m operating under the assumption that the Terriers will not win two straight against the Heels, but as last year showed us, you can never be sure.)

Now, with that caveat out of the way, the awaiting basketball feelings mixture:

35 percent excitement. As with football, there is always excitement that comes along with the start of basketball season. There may be more in some years than others, but it always exists. In 2015, there was probably less than normal, as the gridiron Heels were in the midst of an undefeated ACC campaign. Here in 2018, however, we are experiencing one of the highest percentages of excitement we’ve ever seen. This year’s football squad is struggling mightily for a second consecutive year, while the basketball team has picked up its highest-touted recruits in years. Fans are excited to turn their attention to a sport in which the Heels are expected to be more successful.

15 percent optimism. As opposed to football, where there was just a smidge of optimism heading into this year, there is a lot of promise as we head into this college hoops season. I don’t want to say “Final Four or bust,” but we are relatively close to that this year. If the point guard situation was more sure, I think we would be in Final Four or bust territory with an optimism level up near 25 percent. Still, 15 percent is a strong figure, and there is a lot to be hopeful for this season.

5 percent angst. I said this for football, and I’ll say it again for basketball. Google defines angst as “a feeling of persistent worry about something trivial,” and that pretty much sums it up. Though while it’s easy to shrug off football as something trivial, as a Carolina basketball fan, it’s more difficult to describe that sport the same way. At the end of the day, however, it is still just a game. But a very important game, we can all agree.

20 percent happiness. So far, the Tar Heel football team has only produced a single victory this season. But don’t you worry, good times are on the way. While basketball season can often end in heartbreak, the journey is almost always enjoyable. We are not far from watching Nassir Little dunk all over someone, or Luke Maye hit a three in someone’s face, or Seventh Woods slice through defenders, or Kenny Williams take a charge. We are not far from witnessing some blowouts against “less gifted” teams (and possibly even some blowouts against teams you’d consider peers). Those are the moments throughout the season that bring smiles to our faces and happiness to our lives.

10 percent confidence. The Heels are going to be good this year. I’m confident of that. The pollsters are confident of that. The team is confident of that. How good? That remains to be seen. Could win a national championship, could lose in the Sweet 16. But when “national championship to Sweet 16” are the high and low on your expected range of season outcomes, it’s fair to say that a base level of confidence exists.

10 percent cockiness. My family (NC State fans) used to talk about “typical Carolina fans,” and what they were referencing was really just good old-fashioned cockiness. But if you’re good enough to be confident, you might as well mix some swagger in with it. The ability to trash talk is just one of the many benefits of being good at sports. And after the last two football seasons we’ve endured, haven’t Carolina fans earned the right to toss out a few zingers during basketball?

5 percent impatience. I do not want to wish the year away. I mean it. I want to enjoy the ride. Because when basketball is over, we enter that vast nothingness of summer where there are no sports to watch and that is miserable. That being said, I’m pumped for March. Those first two days of the NCAA Tournament are my favorite days of the year. So I’m waiting just a little impatiently for that time of year to roll around.

As with football season, I’ve turned this list of emotions into an easily viewable pie chart. And also as with football season, I think that regardless of whether you have the exact same feelings swirling around your insides as I do, deep down we are all experiencing the same thing – eagerness for Carolina basketball.

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