Think back about a month ago after North Carolina had just lost to Miami at home to move their ACC conference record to 0-2. At the time Carolina was struggling. They sat at 10-5 (0-2) and in the final few minutes of that Miami game, they were simply outplayed.
Fans were in panic mode and wondering if Carolinas tournament chances were dashed at that moment.
Now move forward to today where Carolina is getting set to take on the eighth ranked team in the nation, the Miami Hurricanes. This time it’s in Miami and it will kick-off the second half of the ACC schedule for North Carolina.
The final eight games in conference play are huge for Carolina. They currently sit at 16-3 (6-3) and according to ESPN’s Bracketology they are a #10 seed in the tournament.
The second half of the schedule does provide some very tough tasks for the Tar Heels. In their remaining eight games they will have to play Duke twice, Miami once, and NC State once.
They will spilt the four games with two road and two home games, in case that could provide some positive light on the situation.
The other five games left on their schedule are very winnable. They get Virginia and Florida State at home, while they travel to Georgia Tech, Clemson and Maryland. They did beat Georgia Tech and Maryland by double digits in their first meeting.
While there are still some “signature” wins left on the schedule, a win against Duke would be huge, Carolina still needs to take care of business in the other five games. A signature win would surely put Carolina in the tournament. But losing all of those games against Duke, Miami and NC State plus say two losses in other remaining games could put a damper on the Tar Heels postseason hopes.
Who will step up?
With a key second half approaching Carolina, who will the Tar Heels look too? For me, James Michael McAdoo and Reggie Bullock have to be the leaders for this Tar Heel team. Recently, Bullock had struggled after some nice games. If he gets back into the swing of things and puts up nice scoring numbers, the Tar Heels could see themselves in the tournament.
More recently McAdoo has given the Tar Heels solid numbers. Coming into the season I expected him to play great and lead the Tar Heels throughout the season. That wasn’t the case however, but now is the time for McAdoo to step up.
Other players that need to play up to their potential are PJ Hairston, Marcus Paige and JP Tokoto. If the Tar Heels can continue to get solid production from Paige and Tokoto, they could make a nice postseason run. Hairston has been lighting it up lately and the Tar Heels hope that continues.
What to expect?
I think the Tar Heels can pull off a nice signature win over Miami or Duke. I don’t think it will happen this Wednesday at Duke, as that game could get ugly. Duke at home is very good, and with the struggles I’ve seen from Carolina at time this year, it could be a blowout. North Carolina played well against Miami in their first meeting at home. This time it’s on the road and will be a much tougher task.
The NC State game stands out the most for me. That’s a huge game for Carolina as they looked lost in their last meeting against State. Payback awaits NC State at the Dean Dome.
The other remaining five games are very winnable for Carolina and I expect them to win at least four of them.
We could see Carolina right around a 9-12 seed in the tournament. However, if they do garner some signature wins they could rise to a 6-8 spot. But right around 10 is what Carolina is looking at right now.