After finishing the regular season 6-14 in league play, the Tar Heels are the 14th and bottom seed in this year’s ACC Tournament. An event that’s traditionally been a precursor to the NCAA Tournament means much more this year – it’s their only opportunity to make the big dance. Winning five games in five days is a tall task for any team. Add to that being a bottom seed having to compete in a tourney of the ACC’s caliber and it’s highly unlikely. But if any team could pull off the nearly impossible it’s UNC. Here are 3 reasons why I wouldn’t be surprised if the Heels ran the table at this year’s conference tournament.
Most bottom conference tourney seeds simply don’t have the talent to complete the tough task of winning five games in a row in one of college basketball’s most difficult conferences, but that’s not the case with Carolina. This is the same squad that was ranked in the top 10 through week 5 and the top 25 through week 6.
Cole Anthony and Garrison Brooks can both go for 20+ points and their chemistry has greatly improved since Anthony returned against Boston College after being sidelined for 11 weeks with a knee injury. Senior Brandon Robinson has tapped into another level – averaging 15 points over the last two games. Christian Keeling has slowly developed into the role player that Roy Williams hoped for when he signed the graduate transfer. And Armando Bacot, who looked impressive against Duke before he got in foul trouble, is overdue for a breakout game.
Simply put, this team can give you buckets, they rebound well, can defend and has improved at closing games.
Maybe it’s the pride and history that comes along with wearing North Carolina on the front of your jersey, or maybe it’s the self assuredness they have in their play, but when you talk to members of this Carolina team you’d never be able to tell they’re entering this year’s ACC tournament with the most league-play losses in school history.
There’s one thing to know you have to run the table at the conference tourney. It’s another thing to believe you can do it. After their loss to Duke every Tar Heel player I spoke with said without hesitation this team can do it and every player meant it. That confidence is exactly what they’ll bring to the court when they tip off Tuesday night.
It’s not unusual for some of the best college basketball programs for have off-years. That hasn’t been the case with UNC. They’re a staple in the NCAA Tournament. They own stock in March Madness. They’re expected to dance every season. This year is different.
After three overtime losses and six total losses by three points or less, Tar Heel fans have come to grips with the fact that this is just not their year…and it’s ok. What that means for the UNC basketball team is that the Final Four pressure that usually comes with playing for the Heels isn’t there. No one expects a team with just 8 conference wins to make it past the first day of the ACC Tournament, let alone win the whole thing. UNC literally has nothing to lose and everything to gain. Couple that with their talent and confidence and you have just the type of dangerous combination to go on a storied March run.
The Tar Heels play Virginia Tech Tuesday at 7 p.m. at the Greensboro Coliseum in the opening round of the 2020 ACC Tournament.
- Carolina is the No. 14 seed in the 2020 ACC Tournament and opens plays vs. No. 11 Virginia Tech at 7 p.m. on Tuesday, March10.
- The first round game will be shown on the ACC Network.
- The winner plays No. 6 Syracuse at approximately 9:30 p.m. on Wednesday in the second round. The winner of that game advances to play No. 3 Louisville on Thursday at approximately 9:30 p.m.
- The Tar Heels are 68-15 against the Hokies, including 15-5 since Virginia Tech joined the ACC in 2004-05.
- Tech defeated Carolina, 79-77, in double overtime in Blacksburg, Va., on Jan. 22.
- The Tar Heels are 2-0 against the Hokies in the ACC Tournament.