North Carolina's 13-10 basketball record is not misleading. The Tar Heels are a bad basketball team.
In itself, that's a mysterious development for a team supposedly blessed with much raw young talent in addition to exceptional size and depth.
What has to concern Roy Williams as much as the 10 losses and 2-6 ACC record has to be the alarming speed with which his team went from being slightly above average in December to playing the absolute worst team ball in the league by early February.
Lots of teams lose some traction as they go along. But Carolina, which defeated Michigan State early and Virginia Tech in its ACC opener, has fallen apart in every facet of competition.
Possibly, the nosedive bottomed out in Sunday's 92-71 loss at Maryland. And since even bad teams occasionally play good games, it's a safe bet UNC will give Duke trouble Wednesday in Chapel Hill. If nothing else, the sight of the Blue Devils should get the Tar Heels focused at least for a day or so.
But beyond Duke, and N.C. State on Saturday in the Smith Center, Carolina's collapse has been so extensive and so sudden that Williams has no alternative except to reassess the program's future even as the 2009-10 string is played out.
It would be a mistake to assume this season is merely a fluke combination of inexperience, uncertainty and letdown from last season's title run. For one thing, the ACC just isn't very good these days. That Maryland is 6-2 and Virginia 5-3 with one-man offensive attacks pretty much sizes up the league.
At a time overall league talent is low and experience only average, Carolina's predicted skill level alone should have produced a 5-3 first-half record.
Instead, the highly rated five-player freshman class has made so little real impact that you have to assume the group is overrated, undercoached or - more likely - some of both.
More perplexing has been the play of veterans Deon Thompson, Marcus Ginyard, Ed Davis and Larry Drew II. In their defense, Ginyard and Davis, plus sophomore Tyler Zeller, have had injuries, and Drew played very little last season as a freshman.
None of that changes the fact that all players, from one season to the next, should make at least some improvement. Carolina's veterans have not. Even their collective intensity has waned.
So what does it all mean?
Everything starts with Williams, of course. Obviously, he hasn't gone from being a Hall of Famer with two national championships to an inept bench prop.
But this season has established that Carolina needs a much better half-court offense and maybe a full-time defensive coordinator.
There's also evidence that Williams needs to beef up his backcourt recruiting, particularly where dribbling and passing are concerned. Drew is a good guy with a sunny disposition, but his ability to run an offense was badly misjudged.
Other than freshman Dexter Strickland, who has talent but a limited playmaker background, there has been no "Plan B" behind Drew dating to Ty Lawson's sophomore season in 2007-08. To succeed at the blitzing tempo Williams prefers, reliable dribbling and passing are musts. Without a quarterback of Lawson's efficiency and minus a Tyler Hansbrough to wear down opponents, Williams is left with a slow team that hasn't been taught how to make the most of its size advantage.
The anticipation of an inconsistent but solid team that would set the stage for another title chase next season is, for now, wildly off target.
On the way are playmaker Kendall Marshall (whose high school is struggling to stay above .500 after starting 5-0), prep superstar forward Harrison Barnes and winger Reggie Bullock.
Those three players will not provide a magical fix. They'll help, but Williams first will have to fix a broken program from the inside out by improving on-ball defense, half-court offense and the fundamentals of dribbling and passing.