The Tar Heels were prime for picking in their ACC opener against Virginia Tech Friday afternoon. Without point guard Ty Lawson, the 2009 ACC Player of the Year who was sitting out due to injury, UNC's offense is much less formidable. And its defense is average at best whether Lawson is in there or not.
But Tyler Hansbrough beat the Hokies again. Last year, in Charlotte, it was on a pretty 12-footer from the baseline -- followed by Hansbrough's scary, Frankenstein-runs-down-the-court-full-speed celebration.
This time, it was on a flailing, off-balance, in-traffic 3-footer -- in other words, a vintage Hansbrough bucket.
That put UNC ahead by 1, and then Hansbrough helped cause a jump ball while Virginia Tech worked for the final shot in the last 10 seconds. This could have been called a foul, too, which is why Va Tech coach Seth Greenberg was so incensed. I thought the TV replays shown were inconclusive and was disappointed not to see a better angle -- if my feet were held to the fire, though, I would guess it was a foul.
If a foul, though, Virginia Tech would only have gotten the ball out of bounds, still down 1 (no free throws), because UNC had one foul still left to give.
And then Hansbrough hit 2 free throws after being fouled to cinch the Tar Heels' 79-76 win.
I still don't think UNC is going to win this ACC tournament -- not without Lawson. But with No.50, you can never be sure. For four years, he's been something else.