North Carolina coach Roy Williams has always had a soft spot for Senior Day.
“I’m corny, and you’ve heard me say that many, many times,’’ Williams said during Monday’s ACC coaches conference call. “And I think playing in the Smith Center for the last time in front of those fans that have supported you for four years, that’s extremely important. The memories that you’re going to have from those four years are going to be extremely important. And the last time you do it, you want it to be special.”
Williams said he still remembers the final home basketball game he played in high school, and what it meant to him.
“That was a special thing for me at that time to have my mom walk out on the court, so that’s where it started with me,'' he said. "And the specialness I felt at that moment … being able to walk over there and give your mom a rose, and hug your mom and dad, and walk out on the court, and have those fans be able to say thank you, and you be able to say thank you for the way that those fans have made you feel for four years -- all that is good stuff. And I don’t think we emphasize the good stuff enough in college athletics.”
Senior walk-ons Patrick Crouch, David Dupont and Stewart Cooper will also be playing their final game at the Smith Center. In past seasons, Williams has usually started all of the seniors -- including the walk-ons.
WHERE THEY WANT TO BE: The Tar Heels have put themselves right where they want to be in the final week of the regular season, Williams said: in position to win the ACC regular season title.
They just have to play better to do it.
“Virginia really made us look bad at times on Saturday; we’ve got to do better than that,’’ he said of Saturday's win.
Williams said he wants to see improvements on both ends of the floor.
“We didn’t get very good shots, except for Z’s dunk, down the stretch, so we’ve got to get better in late-game situations,’’ he said. “But Virginia exposed us, I thought, defensively; we weren’t tough enough or patient enough to guard for 35 seconds. And then we’ve got to do a better job with our motion and our screening and our execution on the offensive end.”
The Tar Heels begin the week tied with Duke atop the ACC standings, and they control their own destiny: If they beat Maryland on Wednesday, then the Blue Devils on the road Saturday, they win the regular-season league title and the top seed in the conference tournament.
Follow Robbi Pickeral on Twitter at @bylinerp.