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Sunday January 17th

5 questions facing UNC men’s basketball

Sophomore guard Marcus Paige (5) attacks the basket against a Notre Dame player. Carolina defeated Notre Dame 63-61 on Monday in the Dean Dome.
Buy Photos Sophomore guard Marcus Paige (5) attacks the basket against a Notre Dame player. Carolina defeated Notre Dame 63-61 on Monday in the Dean Dome.

March is upon us.

For the North Carolina basketball team, that means the ACC tournament is on the horizon. After a final regular-season matchup with Duke on Saturday, the Tar Heels will head to Greensboro next week for an expanded 15-team conference tournament. As a projected top-four seed, UNC won’t begin play until the third day, Friday, March 14.

Here’s a look at five questions facing UNC as it heads into the tournament.

Can Marcus continue the magic?

By now, everyone knows the drill: Marcus Paige comes alive in the second half of games. More than that, he’s proven lethal, lifting UNC to last-minute wins against Duke and N.C. State and even throwing in a game-ending block Monday against Notre Dame for good measure. Can he continue that level of play with higher stakes?

Which McAdoo will show up?

Up until UNC’s last two games, junior forward James Michael McAdoo was mired in a shooting slump, making 10 of 36 field goals across four games — a 27.7 percentage. In general, McAdoo has played well in the ACC season, scoring 13.8 points per game for second-best on UNC. The Tar Heels will need him to be that same player.

Free throws?

This question isn’t new. Free-throw shooting has been a touchy subject since an atrocious performance at the stripe fueled a surprising loss to Belmont in the third game of the season. Free throws were again a problem Monday, as the Tar Heels made just 10 of 22. There could be a slimmer margin of error in the tournament.

Sparkplug off the bench?

UNC could play up to three games in as many days, meaning the Tar Heels will be dealing with some fatigue. Sophomores Brice Johnson and Joel James and freshman Nate Britt could be asked to play significant minutes off the bench.

Can UNC beat the top dogs?

The projected No. 1 and No. 2 seeds, Virginia and Syracuse have both beaten UNC at their respective home courts this season. The Cavaliers’ methodical style of play and Syracuse’s 2-3 zone both present problems for the Tar Heels’ offense. UNC isn’t guaranteed to play either team, but a meeting seems likely.

sports@dailytarheel.com

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