ACC Basketball

ACC Tournament, Quarterfinals: Pittsburgh vs. North Carolina

Karl B DeBlaker/AP

So, let’s just ask it? Are the North Carolina Tar Heels a good team? They do have those five wins against ranked opponents but looking back at those victories now, they certainly look less impressive.

Kentucky, Michigan State and Pittsburgh, all ranked teams UNC beat, are all no longer ranked. Louisville and Duke are still ranked high, so those are the two solid wins, but one was against a Louisville team that is a much healthier squad and the Duke win was at home (where you’re suppose to win). Of course this is a team that just went through a 12-game winning streak, after a 1-4 start in conference, so there’s that.

Roy Williams has done a great job weathering the storm of the P.J. Hairston scandal, arguable his best coaching job if you ask me. Slowly, but surely, the team has figured out what they are good at and what they aren’t so good at. While the scoring of Marcus Paige will win the headlines, it’s the defense that has been the big difference. They rank 20th in D efficiency, according to KenPom, capable of guarding both the three-line and swatting shots away in the paint.

Now unlike UNC, whose impressive wins have become less impressive over time, Pittsburgh has no impressive wins. While I would have them in the tournament now, despite their record vs the top-50, one win against North Carolina could be enough to quiet the doubters. At least they are coming off the most impressive victory in the ACC tourney so far, crushing Wake Forest by 29.

PREVIOUS MEETING: North Carolina over Pittsburgh, 75-71
In Chapel Hill back on February 15, the Tar Heels pulled out a 4-point win, behind 24 points and 12 rebounds by James Michael McAdoo and 18 from Marcus Paige. In the final minute, despite being one of the worst free throw shooting teams in the conference, Carolina was able to knock down 5-6 in the final minute to seal the victory.

In that first meeting, Pittsburgh actually did the little things well, the two teams were just about equal in rebounds, turnovers, blocks, free throw attempts, but what cost the Panthers a chance to win was the fact their stars struggled to put the ball through the hope. Patterson and Talib Zanna combined to hit just 7-26 from the floor. It’s hard to believe they would do that again, but the Panthers are going to learn one hard lesson…a tournament game in Greensboro against Carolina is basically a road game. Good luck with that.

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