A lot of times, the phrase “must win” is used in context regarding situations that a team must win because if they don’t, then they’re eliminated or going home. UNC isn’t in a do or die scenario where they must win to advance, but must win makes sense all the same. Carolina comes into their after Christmas schedule with a 9-3 record that looks a lot better than it actually is. Blowout losses to Butler, Texas, and Indiana really have drawn questions from critics and fans alike thinking that Carolina isn’t all they’re hyped up to be. Maybe they’re right in thinking so.
The Tar Heels don’t have any signature wins to talk about that will tone down the nature of their losses which is a growing problem with ACC play less than two weeks away. Fortunately for the Heels, they have been gifted with an opportunity. An opportunity that will allow them to pick up that quality win against a ranked non conference opponent and ease some of the lurking doubt around them. Losing to UNLV won’t eliminate their NCAA chances, but beating them will go a long way to putting them on that path and since that’s the case, UNLV is a must win.
Carolina has been struggling to string together complete 40 minute games this season in both wins and losses alike, but that will be crucial against the Runnin’ Rebels because they will certainly bring it against the Heels all game long. Star frosh Anthony Bennett has been a nightmare for opposing defenses all season long and is averaging 19.5 ppg and 8.5 rpg in 12 contests this season. the 6-8 combo forward will certainly draw a ton of attention from the likes of Reggie Bullock and James Michael McAdoo as Carolina attempts to limit his production. If Bennett can be held to less than 15 points, the Tar Heels have a great shot at winning this game.
What would a win really mean for this Tar Heel sqaud. It would mean confidence above all others. The confidence they would gain knowing that they have the ability and skill to be able to close out teams they aren’t favored to beat. There would be confidence amongst the players with a win just knowing that everyone is buying into the system and comfortable playing with one another. We’ve all known all season long that this Carolina team was capable of being great and we’ve all known that it would take time to get there. As it happens, now is that time. This game could very well be the turning point for Roy Williams and company and you can bet everyone including the team is hoping they land on the right side of things.
I hope all the players and coaches had a great holiday with their families, but tomorrow it’s time to work. This game Saturday is the most important on to date and a win is critical. Their growth, confidence, and season may very well depend on it. I just count our lucky stars that a game of this magnitude, is in the Dean Dome.