The road ahead for UNC

Bob Donnan - USA Today Sports

North Carolina was a team already sitting squarely on the bubble entering last night’s home tilt against Pittsburgh. Following the 76-67 loss to the Panthers, the Tarheels grasp on one of the tournament’s final at-large spots is tenuous at best.

The Heels were already among the teams on the bubble with the least margin for error considering their lack of signature wins so far this season. With Wednesday night’s loss to Pitt whatever margin the Tarheels had is down the drain.

North Carolina’s schedule down the stretch doesn’t particularly do them any favors. Of their five remaining games, only two stand to help UNC in their push for the tournament, while a single loss could spell doom for Hubert Davis’ first season at the helm.

The Heels first travel to Blacksburg on February 19th for a battle with Virginia Tech in what will essentially be a tournament eliminator. The Hokies are currently ranked 26th in KenPom despite a less than stellar 16-10 record overall but still have an opportunity to make the field if they too can run the table.

After that UNC has a stretch of three games that sees both Louisville and Syracuse visit Chapel Hill, with a Tarheel visit to Raleigh to play NC State sandwiched in between. The Heels don’t have much to gain in any of these three, other than bragging rights over their local rival, but everything to lose.

Wrapping up the season we have North Carolina’s finale at Duke, which in case you haven’t heard, will also be coach Mike Krzyzewski’s final game at Cameron Indoor Stadium. Even before the loss to Pitt it could be argued that Carolina needed to win at Duke to truly solidify themselves in the field of 68, but after there isn’t any argument at all. The Heels not only need every win they can get but they badly need to add a signature win to change the perception of this team in the eyes of the committee and spoiling Coach K’s farewell celebration would be just that.

Obviously, a deep run in the ACC tournament would do a lot to squelch any concerns that could still be lingering at that point but if Carolina were to win out in the regular season they can travel to Brooklyn without the pressure of needing to make an appearance in the final.

The road in front of the Tarheels is relatively straight forward the only question that remains is do they have what it takes to navigate it?


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