The North Carolina men's basketball team needs to win five games in five days if it wants to get an automatic bid to the NCAA Tournament. Anything less, and its season is over.
As one of the bottom seeds, the Tar Heels are guaranteed to begin the ACC Tournament on Tuesday for the first time ever after Virginia Tech defeated Clemson on Wednesday. They will most likely match up with one of the other teams that have just six ACC wins, which are Miami, Wake Forest and Pitt.
UNC is 2-3 against those teams after blowing out Miami, splitting games with Wake Forest and getting swept by Pittsburgh. Based on past matchups, the most favorable matchups for the Tar Heels would be against the Hurricanes or Demon Deacons, but the Panthers are reeling after losing seven straight games to end their season.
On the other hand, North Carolina is trending up. The Tar Heels have won three straight games with a looming matchup against Duke on Saturday. Many UNC fans are starting to believe that their team may have a shot at winning the ACC Tournament with the impressive play over the last three games.
However, the Tar Heels currently sit as the No. 11 seed and will have a brutal road in Greensboro however you slice it.
If the season ended today UNC's first-round matchup would be against Pittsburgh, a team the Tar Heels have lost to twice this season. If they manage to defeat the Panthers, UNC would likely match up with No. 6 seed N.C. State in the second round, another team it has recently beaten.
But even if the Tar Heels manage to win their first two games, the real gauntlet awaits in the following rounds.
If chalk managed to win out, North Carolina would have to beat No. 3 seed Virginia, No. 2 Louisville and No. 1 seed Florida State in three consecutive days.
That's a big ask for a team that is 0-4 against those three teams this season. But there are signs that the Tar Heels could make a run.
Over its three-game win streak to end the season, UNC has almost everyone healthy for what seems like the first time all season, and its stars are shining.
Cole Anthony has begun to take over the North Carolina offense, averaging 24 points and 6.3 assists over that stretch. His recent surge could bode well for a deep ACC Tournament run because March Madness is typically dominated by guards. Just look at UConn's run on the back of Kemba Walker in 2011.
But Anthony can't do it alone. Garrison Brooks has been UNC's most consistent player all season and has seen a spike in his offensive ability over the last three games. The junior forward is averaging 27 points and 10 rebounds during the win streak.
It's unlikely, but this dynamic duo could have the ability to carry the Tar Heels to the five wins in five days that they need.
North Carolina will also need to continue to overcome its Achilles heel, 3-point shooting. The Tar Heels are shooting a lowly 30.3 percent from deep on the season but they have turned it up in their last three games, shooting 40.7 percent over that stretch.
This drastically improved play of North Carolina over its recent win streak will need to continue if it wants to accomplish its goal of saving a lost season and making the NCAA Tournament.
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