UNC Basketball looks to start 2024 on strong note against Pittsburgh

Hubert Davis and the UNC basketball program hope to end a three-game losing streak to Pittsburgh as they hit the road for their first ACC road contest.

Charleston Southern v North Carolina
Charleston Southern v North Carolina / Grant Halverson/GettyImages

As the UNC basketball program begins the 2024 calendar year, one of their New Year's resolutions should be focused on playing better against Pittsburgh.

The Panthers have essentially owned the Tar Heels of late, as Jeff Capel's squad has won each of the last three meetings and five of the last six dating back to the 2019-2020 season.

Of course, North Carolina starts off the 2024 calendar with who else, Pittsburgh, as the Tar Heels will hit the road for their first road conference game of the season on Tuesday night.

9-3. UNC/Pitt. 9-4. 444. . 7:00 PM EST . 441. ESPN. Tuesday, January 2, 2024

It's been a while since the UNC basketball program played a conference game, as their first (and only) ACC game up to this point came back on December 2. Pittsburgh is already two conference games in, but the first two didn't go particularly well, as the Panthers suffered losses to Clemson and Syracuse.

For the Tar Heels, the hope is that Pittsburgh still won't have a conference victory under their belt after Tuesday night's contest.

Key to Victory for North Carolina

When you look at what Pittsburgh has done so far in conference play, one area really seems to stand out.

Pittsburgh finds a way to get to the free throw line, but has struggled to capitalize.

Against Clemson, the Panthers knocked down 10 of 22 attempts at the charity strike. They went on to lose that game by 9, as the Tigers knocked down 12 of their 15 attempts.

In the recent loss to Syracuse, Pittsburgh made just 11 of 24 attempts, in comparison to the Orange making 24 of their 30 free throws. Syracuse made just three of 17 three-point field goal attempts but still went on to win the game by eight.

Free throws matter, ladies and gentlemen!

The Tar Heels have been effective at the line, knocking down 76.5 percent of their attempts. In order to win this game, capitalizing at the line may ultimately be the difference, as Pittsburgh has a knack for getting to the line, but hasn't be able to take advantage of the opportunities up to this point.

Something to Watch For

The Tar Heels have played on the road this season, but this will be their first true road game of the 2023-2024 campaign.

North Carolina went 3-3 in neutral site games during non-conference play, as the Tar Heels saw a majority of top-25 caliber opponents in those games.

Heading into this game, it will be interesting to see how this Tar Heels team handles a true road game, especially against a conference opponent. Given what we've seen from this year's group, the veteran presence should help calm the storm of playing in front of an opposing team's crowd, but the first three games of the new year (all on the road) will give us more insight as to what this team is capable of doing this season.

Last Meeting

The UNC basketball program lost both contests against Pittsburgh a season ago, with the latest coming in a heartbreaking fashion back on February 1, 2023.

North Carolina shot just 35 percent from the floor in a 65-64 loss on their home floor. Caleb Love led all scorers with 22 points, 13 of which came in the first half. Armando Bacot finished with 15 points and 11 rebounds as he set the UNC basketball record for double-doubles in a career with 62. Pete Nance was also in double-figures, as he scored 13 points in the loss.

Projected Starters

No. 2 Elliot Cadeau (Fr. 6-1, 180) 7.3 ppg, 1.8 rpg, 3.7 apg
No. 3 Cormac Ryan (Sr. 6-5, 195) 11.2 ppg, 3.4 rpg, 1.4 apg
No. 4 RJ Davis (Sr. 6-0, 180) 21.6 ppg, 3.4 rpg, 3.6 apg
No. 5 Armando Bacot (Gr. 6-11, 240) 14.8 ppg, 10.8 rpg, 1.3 apg
No. 55 Harrison Ingram (Jr. 6-7, 235) 13.9 ppg, 6.3 rpg, 2.5 apg