North Carolina vs. Pittsburgh Preview: Tar Heels Begin Toughest Part of the Season

North Carolina Tar Heels

Daniel Shirey-USA TODAY Sports

Initially, the North Carolina Tar Heels‘ matchup against Pittsburgh was supposed to be played after their game against Duke, but as a result of the winter storm, Pittsburgh is up first. Now that the Duke game is rescheduled for next Thursday, the Tar Heels are forced to play four ACC games in a span of just eight days. This is a difficult stretch for such a young team, but it is just another obstacle that the Tar Heels are ready to overcome.

Pittsburgh is currently ranked No. 25 in the nation, and they are in fourth place in the ACC in just their first season as a member of the conference. Not many teams can adjust to the ACC’s style of play as quickly as Pittsburgh did, and they have already shown the other members of the conference that they will be a threat moving forward. Tomorrow, the Tar Heels hope to end Pittsburgh’s honeymoon phase in the conference and also extend their current five-game winning streak.

Pittsburgh is led in scoring by senior forward Lamar Patterson with 17 points per game, but there is no reason why J.P. Tokoto‘s athleticism should not give him several difficulties throughout the game. Patterson is also Pittsburgh’s leading three-point shooter with a shooting percentage just over 40 percent and 49 made shots from beyond the arc this season. If the Tar Heels want to get in some practice guarding the perimeter for the Duke game, then shutting down Patterson’s shooting game will help them immensely.

Other than Patterson, Pittsburgh is not that solid of a shooting team. Their second leading scorer is Talib Zanna, a senior forward who averages 12.7 points per game. James Michael McAdoo will most likely be in charge of neutralizing Zanna in the frontcourt, and with the way he has been playing as of late, the frontcourt battle should be won by the Tar Heels. McAdoo is emerging as the starter we all knew he had the potential to be back when he first committed to North Carolina, and now that Kennedy Meeks is finally comfortable in his own skin, the Tar Heels frontcourt is dominant.

Another player who has emerged as a star is Marcus Paige, and he has constantly played at this star caliber throughout the team’s five game win streak. Not only is his three-point shot becoming a huge factor, but he is running the Tar Heels’ transition offense just like Kendall Marshall and Ty Lawson did back in the day. If Leslie McDonald can get hot from beyond the arc as well, then Pittsburgh really does not stand a chance.

Pittsburgh is coming off of a heartbreaking loss to No. 1 Syracuse in which they lost on a buzzer beating acrobatic three-point shot by Tyler Ennis. I am sure everyone has seen the replay of the shot on television, and one could only imagine how much of a dent that shot put into Pittsburgh’s momentum. The Tar Heels have all of the momentum in the world right now, and they need to take advantage of what Pittsburgh lacks.

Tomorrow’s game is in Chapel Hill, so that is also a plus for the Tar Heels, and the fans are doing a “stripe out” in which each section in the Dean Dome will be alternating blue and white. The atmosphere is not one that a team coming off of a heartbreaking loss wants to come into, so the Tar Heels need to jump on Pittsburgh early and maintain their momentum until the final buzzer sounds.

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