Three months ago, everyone talked about North Carolina as the favorite to win the national championship. These days, everyone talks about the Tar Heels missing out on the NCAA Tournament altogether.
With an 0-8 record against Quadrant 1 opponents and mediocre rankings in valuable metrics such as NET (No. 48) and KenPom (No. 44), North Carolina appears to rest on the wrong side of the bubble.
The Tar Heels (16-11, 8-8 Atlantic Coast Conference) still have four regular-season games — starting on Wednesday night at Notre Dame (10-17, 2-14) — to try to turn things around.
The Tar Heels have lost five of their last six, all by single digits. In Sunday’s eight-point loss at then-No. 23 NC State, the Tar Heels led by six midway through the second half but the Wolfpack drilled nine shots in a row down the stretch.
“It’s frustrating because consistently we’re right there in these losses,” said North Carolina coach Hubert Davis. “There’s a stretch or two where we don’t get the defensive stop, we don’t get the basket we need, and ultimately that leads to us not winning the basketball game.”
Fortunately for the Tar Heels, Notre Dame might be the only ACC team in a bigger funk. The Irish have dropped five in a row and nine of their last 10. To be fair, Notre Dame’s last two games have been a four-point loss at Duke and a two-point loss at then-No. 7 Virginia.
In the latter game, Notre Dame sharpshooter Dane Goodwin missed an open 3-pointer at the buzzer that would have given the Irish their first win outside of South Bend this year.
“It’s in the air and I’m thinking, ‘Don’t we kind of deserve this one?'” Notre Dame coach Mike Brey told reporters after the game. “I guess not. I’ll take it Wednesday.”
North Carolina topped Notre Dame 81-64 on Jan. 7 in Chapel Hill. For the Irish to reverse that verdict, they’ll need to find a way to slow down Armando Bacot. He earned one of his UNC-record 66 double-doubles in that meeting with game-high totals of 21 points and 13 rebounds. The Tar Heels outrebounded the Irish 45-32.
–Field Level Media