After a 1-4 start to conference play and sole possession of last place, the North Carolina Tar Heels’ men’s basketball team currently holds a four-game winning streak and are right back in the thick of things in the ACC.
So the headline may have been deceiving. You may have been expecting a much more entertaining article involving players actually streaking Will Ferrell style around campus. Sorry to disappoint some of you, but for Tar Heel fans, this win-streak may be the most exciting news of the new year.
Many fans around the ACC and Tar Heel fans alike (myself included) were ready to throw away this season for the Heels. After a 15-point unenthusiastic road loss to Virginia, the Tar Heels stood at 1-4 in conference play and just 11-7 overall.
It looked as though the Heels were certainly headed for the NIT, which would’ve been seen as a failure for most Tar Heel fans. However, as soon as everyone wrote them off, the Tar Heels finally started playing the quality basketball that everyone is used to seeing.
The last four games haven’t provided the most rigorous schedule by any means, but the Tar Heels have defeated the teams they were expected to defeat. A 19-point victory over Clemson, a 13-point win on the road against Georgia Tech, a 14-point win at home against pseudo-rival N.C. State, and a 12-point home win against Maryland on February 4.
The return of Leslie McDonald had fans blaming the subsequent poor play that followed on a lack of chemistry caused by McDonald’s re-entry to the lineup, but the Heels seem to be settling down and playing much better together the last few games. Individually we have seen improvement from McDonald, and although I’m still hesitant to get as excited about having him in the lineup as other fans, he has definitely improved his outside shooting. McDonald had his best game of the season against N.C. State on February 1, scoring 20 points while shooting 7-13 from the floor and 4-5 from the free throw line.
The Heels seem to finally have found the confidence and chemistry they shared early in the season, and the result is winning games in total team fashion. In the most recent win against Maryland the Heels had only three players score in double figures, but everyone knew their role and the chemistry was evident. Marcus Paige scored 25 points, Brice Johnson had his best game of the season off the bench scoring 19 points on 8-8 shooting and pulling down 7 rebounds, and James Michael McAdoo scored 12. Kennedy Meeks was once again productive and efficient, scoring 7 points and pulling down 3 rebounds in just 18 minutes, and J.P. Tokoto had an impressive stat-line, and although he finished with just 3 points, he had 9 rebounds, 6 assists, 4 steals, and a block.
The Tar Heels face the Notre Dame Fighting Irish in South Bend, Indiana on Saturday, February 8th. The Heels should be able to defeat the Irish, and if they are able to do so they will be 6-4 in the ACC when they face arch-rival Duke on February 12th. The Heels’ current four-game winning streak is the longest of the season, and they hope to keep it rolling. Maybe, just maybe, the Heels can continue streaking past Notre Dame, past Duke, through the quad, all the way to KFC.