There’s No Place Like Home, But The Tar Heels Have to Win Road Games


Before we all start getting too excited about the performances of Reggie Bullock and Stilman White, let’s remember one, important necessary evil in college basketball. Unfortunately, the Tar Heels cannot play all their games in the Smith Center. On Sunday, UNC extended their home winning-streak to 30 games as they handily took care of the Yellow Jackets. I, like everyone else, have been impressed by the play of White and Bullock, especially Bullock. While he may not have Strickland’s defensive prowess, Bullock will score more than Strickland did and many of his points will be from beyond the arc.

 But what happens when they enter into enemy territory. White, of course, is a freshman who has yet to play a game inside Cameron Indoor. Bullock has played in most ACC opponents’ venues since his injury occurred late last season, but those minutes were limited. Luckily, UNC’s first away game without Strickland is a relatively easy one. The Heels only have to travel a little over an hour to face a struggling Wake Forest team and second-year coach Jeff Bzdelik. At one time Wake Forest had the lowest student enrollment of any Division I school. As a small, private Baptist school, Wake is not known for its school spirit, at least not since the days of Tim Duncan. About the only thing in Lawrence Joel Veterans Memorial Coliseum that can potentially distract the Heels are the ubiquitous black and gold tie-dye shirts in the student section. In fact, many residents of Winston-Salem are die-hard Tar Heels fans, so don’t be surprised if you pockets of blue all around Tuesday night.

The Tar Heels should defeat the Demon Deacons in Winston-Salem, but that doesn’t mean they will, and it doesn’t mean Wake won’t put up a fight. Back in 2003, the Deacons welcomed Roy Williams to the league in his first ACC game as UNC head coach in a triple overtime marathon game that ended with Wake victorious 119-114. Of course Wake was ranked #14 at the time and coached by the late Skip Prosser. However, I am sure Roy Williams has not forgotten who handed him his first ACC loss.

But still, it is better to go into Winston-Salem first before going to College Park to face Maryland which is a better team with a more raucous arena. Including Wake and Maryland, the Heels have six ACC road games left against Miami, NC State, Virginia and of course Duke. The last three are especially formidable as they come within an 11 day stretch. If you ask me, the Heels will be extremely lucky to take two of those last three.

Of course this is not a problem that is specific to the Tar Heels. All of college basketball has struggled on the road this year. Both Syracuse and Kentucky experienced their one loss on the road. Two of Duke’s three losses have been on the road, and Kansas has struggled away from Lawrence. But let’s face it, ACC road games are not your typical road games especially when you are Duke or Carolina and have a bull’s eye on your back. I doubt Ohio State will play any away game this season with as loud and rowdy of a crowd as the Heels faced in Tallahassee, let alone Cameron Indoor.

In the end, these tough ACC road game ahead should benefit the Heels in the NCAA tournament. And remember all three Heels’ road losses were to teams who are now ranked in the Top 25. I don’t think Kentucky is going to be beaten in Lexington this year mainly because SEC basketball is far more of a joke than ACC football. At least maybe Frank Haith will give the Wildcats a run for their money when Mizzou joins the SEC next year. The Tar Heels’ one point loss to Kentucky looks more impressive every day. I think the Heels learned from the FSU forfeit, and it will serve as an anomaly of the rest of their season. But, I’m still not convinced that the Heels can hang on the road. However, wins against Wake Forest and Maryland this week will make me a believer again. And then, bring on the Dookies!