College Basketball Insider

UNC won't be good until or unless it gets its full roster active

You can put the players in those iconic blue uniforms, let them walk out of the home locker room at the Dean Smith Center, and even give them a Hall of Fame coach with two national titles on his résumé. But none of that alone will make North Carolina good. If you didn't realize it before, surely you realize it now -- after Sunday's home loss to Belmont.

The final score was 83-80.

Before I go any farther, let me state that, yes, Belmont is a consistently great Ohio Valley Conference program, and that Rick Byrd is a terrific coach. I hope Nashville is celebrating, accordingly. But under no circumstances should a Ohio Valley Conference school -- even this OVC school -- ever be in a position to win in Chapel Hill, and yet, if you watched the game unfold, you know the outcome wasn't really all that surprising.

Belmont led at the half and for most of the game.

Meantime, P.J. Hairston and Leslie McDonald watched from the bench. They were dressed sharply but not in uniform, and, really, that's the biggest problem facing North Carolina right now. I've had the Tar Heels ranked in the top 15 of the Top 25 (and one) all season, but that ranking was based off of my preseason rankings, which were based on Hairston and McDonald being eligble. As I'm sure you've heard, both are dealing with NCAA issues and consequently sidelined pending some sort of resolution. Until that changes, North Carolina will be working without two of its top four returning scorers, and UNC just isn't talented enough to compete at a high level without Hairston and McDonald.

That's been clear most of this season.

It became undeniable on Sunday afternoon.

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