(9) UNC Loses OT Heartbreaker to College of Charleston
The National Champs loss their fourth game of the season last night, putting a bit of a dimmer on any repeat chances they might have. Though it seemed unlikely that UNC would go undefeated the rest of the way, a loss to the College of Charleston hurts quite a bit more than a loss to say Florida State or Duke (except for the whole rivalry factor). The Tar Heels first three losses came against Syracuse, Kentucky, and Texas, all Top-10 if not Top-5 teams. While UNC would have loved to have taken one of those games, those losses aren’t shocking or overly damaging to UNC’s ranking or tournament hopes. Losing to Charleston on the other hand is damaging to both.
The Tar Heels will likely maintain their Top-25 ranking, but they will drop 10+ spots. Though it’s way to early to really make any predictions about the tournament, a loss to Charleston is a major black mark on their resume. In fact, I’d say last night’s loss hurts UNC worse than their other three losses combined. Now North Carolina will enter tournament play, in a much weaker position than they ever thought they would.
The ACC is a probably a tougher conference this year than season’s past. Currently there are five ranked teams in the conference, and a few others knocking at the door. In addition to the talent at the top of the conference, the ACC has gotten stronger as a whole. There really isn’t a ‘gimme’ game on the Tar Heels schedule this season. Right now the ACC depth is on par (if not better) than the Big East’s, where any team can knock off another. UNC will need to rebound and start off this conference schedule strong, if they hope to go far this season.
Personally I think the Tar Heels will be dangerous down the stretch, they are overall a young team that should improve as the season wears on. I think they can rise to the challenge of the ACC schedule and remain a solid contender. The key for UNC, as they hope for a chance of a repeat title, is to put themselves in a position for no worse than a four seed heading into the NCAA Tournament. If they can get a couple of easy games early, then I think they could do some serious damage in the Tournament. Regardless of where they end up, the Tar Heels are one team I wouldn’t want to face in March.