NCAA Basketball ACC BasketballNorth Carolina Tar Heels

North Carolina is Playing Their Best Basketball of the Season

Bob Donnan-USA Today Sports

North Carolina hasn’t had the type of season they would have liked to at this point, but right now, they are looking like the team they were supposed to be.  The Tar Heels looked like they could possible be missing out on the NCAA tournament and be heading to the NIT, but in the last two games, they look like a team on a mission.

It was only a week ago when North Carolina went on the road and got embarrassed by Miami.  Their next game was at Duke in the best rivalry in college sports and no one was giving the Tar Heels a chance.  A team that has struggled on the road going into one of the most hostile environments to play usually does not end well.

North Carolina went into Durham with something to prove and even though they didn’t walk out of Cameron with a win, they showed they are a very good team.  The Tar Heels lead the entire first half and the first five minutes of the second half before a few poor plays from inexperience allowed Duke to go on a little run and gain the momentum.

In the end, UNC lost by five, but showed they can defend at a high level and play with intensity.  Poor shooting cost them the game, but there are going to be nights when the ball isn’t going in the hoop.

Against Duke, the Tar Heels had a great chance to boost their resume with a win, but even with a loss, the selection committee is still going to love how hard the Tar Heels competed and they showed they deserve to be in the tournament.

Today, the Tar Heels were able to ride the momentum they gained from their loss at Duke.  The Tar Heels continued to play with great intensity led of course by P.J. Hairston.  Hairston has brought energy to this team all year and it is starting to become contagious.

North Carolina defeated Virginia in a key game today despite the Cavaliers shooting 58.5% from the field and 57% from behind the arc.  You can say that is bad defense, but Virginia was just knocking down shots.

All North Carolina did was shoot 49% from the field and 46% from three-point range.  They struggled shooting against Duke, but they were able to recover and ultimately win today because of their offense.

Hairston led the team with 29 points and seven rebounds, but the real story for Carolina was the play of Dexter Strickland and Marcus Paige.  Strickland and Paige are going to need to play well if the Tar Heels want to have a shot in March and today was exactly how they need to play.

The two guards combined to score 29 points, dish out nine assists, grab five rebounds, record three steals, but more importantly only have three turnovers.  Great production overall from both players and to have a 3-to-1 assists to turnover ratio is always a good thing.  The guard play for Carolina is going to be key in the final stretch of the season.

A nice win over a team ahead of them in the ACC standings after a gutsy effort in a defeat has North Carolina looking pretty good for a bid to the NCAA tournament, but the play in those two games might have them looking to make a run when they get there.

This team wasn’t No. 9 in the preseason rankings for no reason.  They have tons of talent and have showed in it their last two games.  It’s always better to play your best at the end of the year not the beginning.

The Tar Heels look to continue their hot play on Tuesday at Georgia Tech in a key conference game.