In case you live under a rock, the Tar Heels have a big game coming up on the road against the Duke Blue Devils. This game is historically huge every year as it is arguably the best rivalry in college sports. This season this game has even larger implications for the Tar Heels.
The Heels are currently 6-4 in ACC play. Three of these losses have been to ranked teams at the time of play. However, they are currently in 4th place in the conference. Another loss could move them down into 5th place behind NC State, which means they would not receive a first-round bye in the ACC tournament. With UNC’s inconsistent play this season, an extra game is definitely not what they need.
On a bigger stage, according to ESPN’s bracketologist, Joe Linardi, North Carolina is currently making the NCAA tournament as an 11 seed. Not only do they have 7 losses, but they do not have any signature wins other than beating then number 20, UNLV. UNC needs a signature win. Unless NC State is able to climb back into the top 25, their 2 games against Duke will be their only chance of getting a great win. There’s always a chance they could get a 3rd shot at now number 3 Miami in the ACC tournament, but I would rather them get a win sooner than later. This is going to be even tougher now that is has been reported that freshman, Joel James, will not compete against Duke due to a concussion. James only averages 11-12 minutes a game but that buys some rest minutes for the Tar Heels’ only low post presence, James Michael McAdoo.
The game after Duke, UNC plays against Virginia, who not only beat them earlier this year, but holds the number 3 spot in the ACC. A win at Duke and then against Virginia would raise the Heels into 3rd place. That would be a lot more comfortable in getting that ACC tournament bye.
Another thing that people must consider is that the number 1 prospect in high school, Andrew Wiggins, has yet to make his decision on college. The Tar Heels made his latest list of only 4 teams. Wiggins has a tentative visit scheduled for UNC when they play Duke in the Dean Dome. A win with him there would be huge to bolster North Carolina’s recruiting class. A win at Cameron Indoor Stadium could get the wheels turning in Wiggins’ head that it would be in his best interest to attend UNC. Also, a win could bolster the confidence of the team going into the final stretch of the regular season. When it is tournament time, it’s not only the best team but the team that gets the hottest at the right time.
Then there’s always the need to have bragging rights. No UNC fan wants to hear what Duke-faithful will have to say about the game if Duke wins. So if for nothing else, UNC needs to win to quite the Duke fans.