North Carolina Basketball: Tar Heels Have Biggest Week of the Season Looming

By Gregory Philson

The North Carolina basketball program has been flying high as of late and the Tar Heels look way more like the team that upset Louisville, Michigan State and Kentucky earlier this season than the team that was upset three times earlier on and started 1-4 in the ACC.

Still, coach Roy Williams‘ squad has a lot left to prove this week with the Duke Blue Devils Wednesday and a matchup with the Pittsburgh Panthers Saturday. Both teams offer different styles of play and North Carolina will really see where it stands.

The Tar Heels have won five straight games by at least 11 points and are playing at a pace most fans think of when it comes to North Carolina basketball. The Tar Heels have scored at least 73 points in all five games and it has come with more balance on offense and an aggressive ball-hawking defense. North Carolina has forced at least 10 turnovers during this stretch and has made it very difficult for teams to score inside with the blocking ability of Brice Johnson and James Michael McAdoo and the stellar defensive footwork of Joel James and Kennedy Meeks.

However, the best team North Carolina has beaten during this stretch has been the up-and-down Maryland Terrapins. The Tar Heels have done what they should have in the last two weeks and have set themselves up perfectly to be facing teams like Duke and Pittsburgh.

However, both of these teams will be the greatest challenge for North Carolina since it was blown out by the Virginia Cavaliers in Charlottesville on Jan. 20. The Tar Heels will definitely be up and ready to take on Duke, but if the Blue Devils come out hot, the game could get out of hand if there is not a solid and equal response. Jabari Parker is a complete mismatch for North Carolina and it is impossible to imagine him being contained. How the Tar Heels manage everyone else will be key.

When North Carolina hosts Pittsburgh Saturday, a lot of how that game will play out will depend on how the Tar Heels fared against Duke, and Pittsburgh against Syracuse. Regardless, North Carolina needs to come out ready for the Panthers. Either Pittsburgh will be high off handing the Orange their first loss of the season or angry that it fell to its rival.

North Carolina needs at least a split this week. If the Tar Heels pull off two victories, they are serious contenders. If they fall twice, then they might as well be counted out for any real run.

Gregory T. Philson is an ACC college basketball writer at Follow him on Twitter @GTPhilson, “Like” him on Facebook and add him to your network on Google.

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