What is the most important part for a team entering March Madness? Is it coaching? Is it regular season record? Is it seeding? No, I’ll tell you what the most important part for a team is entering March Madness: It’s when the team gets hot.
As long as the team is in the big dance, they have a chance. And if that team gets hot at the right time, they have a chance. UNC has struggled with consistency. They have not struggled with playing big time basketball—in streaks. If they can put together a long enough streak come March, they will be a team nobody will want to play.
Things are a little rough in Chapel Hill. They just fell out of the Top-25. This is after they beat the #11, the #3, and the #1 team in the nation. UNC just lost to Wake Forest and Miami. They’re 0-2 in conference play. It has been a topsy-turvy season so far, to say the least. They play the #2 team in the nation in Syracuse on Saturday, January 11th.
The thing is, if you ask Syracuse head coach, Jim Boeheim, he will most definitely have UNC circled on the schedule. Is there another non-top-25 team in the nation, on a 2-loss-streak, that a top-5 team is worried about? The answer is no. However, this says a lot about UNC. It says “Roy Williams is not a head coach you want to face in March.”
One thing that has been apparent throughout the season is this two-edge-sword: Chapel Hill matches their opponent’s skill level. UNC is a blue-blood team, a team with a rich basketball history, and a team with two recent championships under their coach’s belt. They are always a dangerous team to face. But let’s be honest here, Tar Heel nation- what is up with who we’re losing to?
The teams UNC has lost to this season sounds like a murderer’s row of NIT finalists: Belmont, UAB, Texas, Wake Forest, and Miami. If we play some sub-standard team in the first couple of rounds, does that mean Chapel Hill will be bounced from the first round or two? What about if UNC makes it past the first two rounds, could they take the championship to the great state of North Carolina?
UNC has struggled this year with being a mirror team. They rise and fall with their competition. However, Chapel Hill will have to embrace the fact that they are this team—and, most of all, pick their energy up against lower-talent squads. This is all doable.
Maybe, just maybe, UNC should stop running from their identity of a roller-coaster team and focus on strengthening their attributes while trying to round out some short-comings. That means make lower-ranked teams a priority. No more over-looking the Miamis and Belmonts and Wake Forests of the basketball world. Chapel Hill should start circling these lay-up wins on the calendar.
This also means lowering the importance metric against Kentucky’s and Louisville’s and Michigan State’s—just going out to play their game. It’s been working so far. These are quality wins, but there aren’t enough of them.
Either way, UNC isn’t a team anyone wants to face in March.