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The Daily Tar Heel

UNC is playing its best basketball with historic ACC marks

Coby White FSU
First-year guard Coby White (2) drives the ball during UNC's 77-59 win over FSU at the Smith Center on Saturday, Feb. 23, 2019.

After a historic home loss to Louisville on Jan. 12 in the ACC home opener, the No. 3 North Carolina basketball team learned something that has proven crucial to its season.

The Cardinals embarrassed the home squad by 21 points as the Tar Heels dropped their fourth game of the season with a tough slate of conference foes still ahead. Afterward, UNC was demoted down to No. 13.

“That game, Louisville was just so much more intense and had better intentions than we did,” head coach Roy Williams said after a win over Boston College on Tuesday, according to 247Sports. “I think it hit us right in the mouth, and perhaps it’s helped us some, too.”

Williams' team was hit in the mouth, and right then, the season was in jeopardy of flying off the rails. But instead of falling apart, the loss served as a wake-up call that has propelled the team on a fiery second-half run of historic proportions. 

From that game on, the Tar Heels have played themselves into the conversation for a No. 1 seed in the NCAA Tournament. 

Setting aside the first Louisville game, North Carolina has played its best basketball of the year in ACC play. The team has won 15 conference games for the first time in program history this year, while compiling an unblemished 9-0 record on the road.

“Really proud of our team,” Williams said Tuesday after beating Boston College, according to 247sports. “First team, North Carolina anyway, to go 9-0 on the road in the ACC, and I think that’s a fantastic accomplishment.”

Part of that run can be attributed to the meteoric rise of first-year point guard Coby White, who has proven to be the most prolific and consistent scorer on the team. The 6-foot-5 Goldsboro native — who is UNC’s leading scorer in the conference at 17.9 points per game — has found his touch since the Pittsburgh game, scoring 20-plus points six times during a stretch that includes the game against the Panthers. 

But the team itself has been putting together a really nice run, as well. 

Veterans Cameron Johnson and Luke Maye have had some of their best performances in the second half of the season. Since ACC play began, the Tar Heels have been outscoring their opponents by 11 points per game on average. 

With highlight wins over then-No. 1 Duke, a 17-point victory over N.C. State and a revenge win over Louisville, the Tar Heels have put together one of the best resumes in the country. With the regular-season finale against Duke coming up on Saturday, UNC has won 13 of its last 14 games heading into that matchup. 

The team also has an 8-5 record against Quadrant 1 opponents, while taking down two of the other four teams in the top 5. Three of the Tar Heels’ five losses (Virginia, Kentucky and Michigan) came against teams currently in the top 7, while every team UNC has lost to is expected to make the cut for the big dance, according to ESPN’s Joe Lunardi.

Though there’s room for improvement moving forward, UNC has kept up with almost anyone it has played, especially lately. So how might that success translate into the postseason?

UNC’s tough schedule from top to bottom and its performance on the road since conference play began bodes well for the marathon of games up ahead. After hosting Duke on Saturday, the Tar Heels will play on unfamiliar territory the rest of the way. 

After a rough start, North Carolina looks poised for the postseason. 

But no matter the final outcome for the team in March Madness, the Tar Heels have already accomplished more than they have in some of their national championship seasons. And at worst, even if they lose in the first round of the tournament, that’s nothing to scoff at. 


@DTHSports |

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