Sitting at the podium dejected after the team’s 62-57 loss to Duke – its 11th single-digit loss of the season and second to its Tobacco Road rival – head coach Hubert Davis was asked about his team’s mindset heading into this week’s ACC Tournament.
Given the Tar Heels’ dismal 19-12 record that features – count ‘em – one Quad One win, many players in the locker room expressed the belief that they likely need to win all four games to clinch an automatic berth to the NCAA Tournament. When asked about his thoughts, Davis provided a different type of response.
“I don’t know where they get that information,” Davis said. “I’m not a narrative guy, all I know is that on Wednesday we play the winner of Boston College and Louisville.”
On the surface, Davis’ thoughts seem optimistic. UNC technically controls its own postseason fate, and its ceiling seems to be as high as any team in the country.
But in reality, minutes after falling to a Duke team that recorded four assists and shot just under 38 percent from the floor, the message speaks volumes for a team whose lack of urgency is still a common factor in losses — despite the fact that the season is on the brink of utter collapse.
Junior guard RJ Davis said that, since the start of the season, UNC was aware of the expectations of being the No. 1 team.
"Just the noise that comes with it," he said. "I think we deserved that based on the run we made last year but sometimes it puts too much pressure on yourself and you try to meet these expectations instead of going out there and playing freely."
Like many games this season, UNC had its chances to win late. Despite shooting a season-low 30.4 percent from the field, the Tar Heels trailed by just one point with 50 seconds to play. But, despite needing a stop, junior guard Caleb Love allowed Duke's Jeremy Roach to beat him off the dribble before finishing a scooping layup inside.
Moments later, when Duke’s Kyle Filipowski missed the front end of a one-and-one with 19 seconds remaining, Love dribbled to the left wing and pulled up with a prayer that would have tied it.