Tar Heels will learn from loss

Updated: February 16, 2005, 3:43 PM ET
By Jay Bilas | ESPN Insider
Who's really better, Duke or North Carolina? What's the key to beating Boston College? What's really behind Sebastian Telfair's allegations? ESPN analyst Jay Bilas examines those questions and more …

If you watched Duke beat North Carolina, it is hard to ignore that, despite the loss, North Carolina is the team that is more likely to reach St. Louis, and has the best chance to win the National Championship.

The Tar Heels are deeper, more talented and more athletic than the Blue Devils, and needed only to protect and value the ball better in order to have won that game. If it is approached correctly, and it will be, expect the Heels to actually benefit from the loss.

Here is what Carolina did defensively: The Heels held Duke to just 36 percent shooting, forced 15 turnovers, and outrebounded the Blue Devils by a whopping 15 boards. Carolina scored 23 points off of Duke turnovers, doubled Duke in the paint, and shot as many free throws as Duke in Cameron. Carolina, as maligned as its defense was last year, held Duke to just 71 points. That is outstanding.

This is a much better North Carolina team than we saw last year, and it is not just because they run a pretty fast break and an efficient secondary break. The 2005 Tar Heels are much tougher, mentally and physically, and have much more of a blue-collar attitude. North Carolina lost to Duke because Duke wrested away the tempo in the first half, and North Carolina was not strong with the ball in the first five minutes of the game, and allowed Duke to set the tone and get in some early punches.

Carolina lost the game because of one thing … turnovers. The team that valued the ball more won, but barely. Expect North Carolina to learn from the game against Duke.

Jay Bilas

College Basketball analyst