After a long road back to the top tier of the ACC during the regular season, it was a short lived stay for North Carolina in the conference tournament. Falling behind early and struggling offensively for much of the first half, it fought its way back but was unable to take advantage of opportunities late in the game to overcome Pitt and advance.
It was an uncharacteristic performance for the hard working Tar Heels who turned the ball over in bunches, were outrebounded at both ends of the floor and showed little urgency, settling for jumpers most of the day. The loss of Marcus Paige, with a nagging injury, for a critical portion of the second half didn’t help, but rather showed how fragile Carolina’s team makeup is without their general. In the closing minutes, foul trouble was the story and the game became out of reach just when it seemed that an improbable comeback may be in the cards.
The loss really leads to bigger questions surrounding the Tar Heels and the upcoming NCAA tournament. They’ve now lost two in a row after reeling off 12 straight victories. It is evident that their seeding will probably drop after losing to a non-ranked opponent, but just how far is yet to be seen. In addition, many saw Carolina as a team that began the year very slowly, but after turning things around of late could be considered a bracket buster. Performing as they did today, the Heels could find themselves having trouble sticking around at all, let alone making some noise.
Coach Roy Williams will now have some extended time to get his guys back on the same page before finding out their fate on Selection Sunday. They’re still a lock to dance, but now having to meet a more difficult opponent earlier in the tournament will not make the road any easier.
It’s imperative that they get back to Tar Heels basketball, outworking their opponents up and down the floor on every possession and taking care of the basketball. When they do that, their past shows there’s not a team in America they can’t play with.