The North Carolina men’s basketball team has gone through a rollercoaster of a season.
There is a constant loop that fans of the team have been stuck in — starting with the hope of a turnaround after a satisfying win, before losing it once again after each puzzling defeat.
Just days after losing at home to Pittsburgh, UNC defeated a red-hot Virginia Tech team on Saturday, shifting the Tar Heels' season outlook to the hopeful side of the loop once again.
The win against the Hokies displayed some of the best basketball the Tar Heels have played this season, and showcased the Caleb Love that fans had been hoping to see all along. The sophomore guard had an integral role in the win, finishing with 21 points accompanied by seven assists.
Junior forward Armando Bacot also had a big impact in this contest. He recorded yet another double-double with 12 points and 15 rebounds. Bacot was also a great rim protector with five blocks on the day. At this point in the season, it’s safe to say that Bacot has been the most consistent presence for the Tar Heels.
The win against Virginia Tech was also significant for the team's postseason aspirations, as it provided a boost to UNC's tournament resume. Most mock-ups of the tournament seeding will place the Tar Heels among the “bubble” group of teams, meaning their inclusion in the tournament is not guaranteed.
As UNC closes out its remaining regular season schedule, every single game will be a must-win if the team wants to see itself in the NCAA Tournament.
The next step in building their campaign for the tournament is beating a decent Louisville team at home on Monday at 7 p.m. While the Cardinals might not seem like a threat due to their poor 12-14 record, this is not a team to take lightly.
Not too long ago this season, the Tar Heels visited Louisville in a game that ended up going into overtime. In the end, UNC escaped with a 90-83 win, but it was certainly one they had to work hard for.
Their last matchup was highlighted by Louisville’s great bench performances. The Cardinals' El Ellis dropped 25 points off the bench, and forward Jae'Lyn Withers also came off the bench for 12 points. If UNC can contain the bench players like Ellis and Withers better in this next game, the team will have a better chance of succeeding.
Other key factors for the Tar Heels are the performances of Love and Bacot. Love’s recent turnaround and Bacot’s continual dominance will have to be on full display for not only this game against the Cardinals, but for the rest of the season.
Against a Louisville team that has little to no chance of participating in the tournament this March, a loss would be detrimental to the Tar Heels’ postseason dreams. North Carolina must play like its season is on the line because it just might be.
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