No Bruce Brown Jr. No problem. That was the Lonnie Walker IV that we ‘Canes have been looking forward to watching all season. In his first start of the campaign, Walker put together his best performance yet, as the hype gave way to reality. He put up 26 points, while also recording 7 boards, as he helped the ‘Canes pull away from the Boston Terriers for a 69-54 win. The win helped the ‘Canes improve to 8-0 for the first time since 2014-2015, and ties them for the 4th best start in program history. Ranked 10th in the nation, and already with a road win over a top 15 program under their belt, this ‘Canes team is looking good and hoping to head into ACC play without a blemish on their record. It’s a bit premature to determine where this ‘Canes team will eventually rank among previous teams, but could they achieve the best start in program history? The mark is 14-0, set by the 2001-2002 team. This year’s team is over halfway there. So lets take a look at what stands in their way. But first, a brief history lesson.
The last two ‘Canes teams to start 8-0 didn’t make the NCAA Tournament. I talked about it at the beginning of the season. The ‘Canes have made a habit of losing to lackluster opponents before ACC play. The 2014-2015 squad that also started 8-0, and also had a huge road win over the 8th ranked (at the time) Florida Gators, failed to reach the Big Dance. After that 8th win there was talk that that ‘Canes team could be even better than the 2012-2013 team. With a favorable schedule, and Angel Rodriguez playing out of his head, the ‘Canes really did look incredible... until they didn’t. The ‘Canes lost 3 of their next 4 games, two of which were at the BUC, to Green Bay, Eastern Kentucky, and Providence. Their only win in the four game stretch came against Savannah State.
The 2009-2010 team that started 8-0 fell apart once they got into ACC play, going just 4-12 in the league. The 1997-1998 team that started 9-0 made it to the tourney but fell short against UCLA in the first round. But making it to the Big Dance is progress, so maybe all this ‘Canes team needs is to win the next one. I’m no fool. I watched last night as Ball State shocked the Notre Dame Fighting Irish in South Bend, in what is sure to be the upset of the season. You can’t have an off night, no matter who you’re playing against. But this team absolutely should head into conference play undefeated.
The ‘Canes have four more non-conference games with only two opponents known: George Washington and Hawaii. GW is 4-4, and though the game will be played in DC, the ‘Canes have already won in a much tougher environment against a superior opponent when they traveled to Minnesota. GW has already lost a home game to the Rider Broncs this season, so the ‘Canes should have no problem getting to 9-0. Then it’s on to Hawaii to take on the Rainbow Warriors in the first round of the Hawaiian Airlines Diamond Head Classic. The ‘Canes will almost certainly be favored over whoever else they play in the tournament which consists of Akron, Davidson, Middle Tennessee State, New Mexico State, USC, and Princeton (who the ‘Canes already beat). The Rainbow Warriors are certainly no slouch, but as I said with GW, the ‘Canes have already played in a tougher environment against a better opponent and gotten out with a hard fought win. With Lonnie Walker heating up and the presence of Dewan Huell down low, the ‘Canes should simply overpower Hawaii, and shouldn’t have a problem with their second round game against the winner of Davidson and New Mexico State either. The Championship of the tournament is on Christmas day, and the ‘Canes should be able to celebrate Christmas with a trophy in (a bit more of a) paradise.
12-0 heading into ACC play would be huge, especially since the first two games in ACC play are on the road. I can’t stress the importance of that Minnesota win enough. The ‘Canes played a soft non-conference schedule, and a tight loss to Minnesota might not have been enough to make up for that. But by going up there and bopping the Gophers, the ‘Canes solidified at least one quality non-conference win, which should add to a slew of opportunities in ACC play.
Just before the new year, the ‘Canes open up the conference schedule with a road game against the Pittsburgh Panthers. It’s the ACC so no game is easy, especially on the road, but Pittsburgh has already lost to Navy, who Miami had no problem dealing with earlier in the season. Then its on to Georgia Tech, who the ‘Canes always seem to have trouble with, even when the Yellow Jackets are slumping. The Yellow Jackets are 4-3 with an ugly home loss to the Grambling Tigers, but still the ‘Canes cannot take this game lightly.
So let’s say the ‘Canes win their next 6 games, which are all games that they are going to be favored to win, that would leave them at 14-0 and tied for the school record for best start in a season. Who would there opponent be in that 15th game? Well sport is often poetic, and this would be no different, as in their 15th game the ‘Canes welcome the Florida State Seminoles to town. The Seminoles just wiped the floor with the Florida Gators in Gainesville and are one of the huge surprises of the early season as they sit at 7-0. Wouldn’t it be oh, so sweet to set a school record and do it against FSU?
Coach L, would probably yell at me and tell me to take it one game at a time, but it’s December and we have 10 days until our next game. So why not get a little excited about what this team might be able to offer down the line?
What do you think? Will they drop to GW on the 16th? Will this be the team that finally hits 15-0? Can they go beyond that?
What Will Be The ‘Canes Record Before Their First Loss?
This poll is closed
9-0 / 10-0
11-0 / 12-0
13-0 / 14-0