Brace yourselves for the roller coaster ride that is the North Carolina Tar Heels! The preseason number one team and consensus national title contender has struggled as of late after finishing their three game road trip with a 1-2 record. The Tar Heels have struggled to find consistency on the offensive and defensive ends of the floor, dropping two road games in less than a week and allowing the Virginia Cavaliers and Miami Hurricanes to reassert themselves as viable contenders for the ACC regular season title.
As if Marcus Paige, Joel Berry, and the rest of the Tar Heels shooting struggles weren’t enough; coach Roy Williams staggered and had to be helped back into the locker room in the middle of the Boston College game on Tuesday, having suffered from a case of Vertigo. The Tar Heels however, managed to rally late to come out with a 68-65 win against a last place Boston College team on the road. Paige sank a three with 1:47 left in the game to give the Tar Heels the lead and Justin Jackson’s 20-point performance helped Carolina avoid what would have been their first three game conference losing streak since the beginning of the 2013-14 season.
After having lost consecutive games for the first time this season, the Tar Heels made changes to their starting lineup. Placing three players who had started most of if not every game up to that point in the season on the bench in Jackson, Brice Johnson, and Kennedy Meeks (started 14 games). Theo Pinson, Joel James, and Isaiah Hicks got the nods to start along with regular starters Paige and Berry.
The road for North Carolina doesn’t get any easier from here as their schedule presents challenges from top contending ACC rivals. They face Pittsburgh (17-6, 6-5), Duke (18-6, 7-4), and Miami (19-4, 8-3) over the course of the next week. The Tar Heels can however, take comfort in the fact that all three games will be played at home where they are a perfect 16-0 this season.
The Tar Heels are still a lethal threat if they can find a way to put it all together, but as of now they appear to be grinding through a tough stretch of poor shooting and lack of toughness. Marcus Paige did have a nice 21-point outing against Notre Dame in which he finished 7-12 from the floor and knocked down five threes. Brice Johnson has also continued to quietly make the case as to why he is the best and most consistent player on Carolina’s roster, but unless the Tar Heels can find a way to play more cohesive and consistent basketball the roller coaster ride will continue.
Carolina (20-4, 9-2) is still in sole possession of first place in the ACC standings and boast the number nine ranking in the latest AP poll. It will be interesting to see what happens down the stretch in Carolina’s seven remaining regular season games. Notable match-ups against highly ranked Miami and Virginia as well as two match-ups (home and away) against rival Duke will test the Tar Heels resolve.