North Carolina begins the final week of the regular season with a matchup against another team fighting for an NCAA berth when the Tar Heels travel to Syracuse.
Depending on which half you trust, the Tar Heels are either in good position or deep trouble as they try to get on the right side of the tournament bubble.
Carolina had a disastrous first half against Florida State on Saturday, turning the ball over twice as often as it made a shot. The Tar Heels went on a run in the second half, however, and knocked off league leading Florida State in one of the biggest comebacks in recent UNC history.
With games at Syracuse and home against Duke leading into the ACC Tournament, the key question for Carolina is which half is the outlier?
While the Heels have improved as the year went on, the FSU game showed that the team is still inconsistent. Coach Roy Williams has said that he has no way of knowing how the team will perform on the floor. Practices, pregame mood, body language—nothing has been an indicator of how the Heels will play.
Syracuse, meanwhile, is in desperation mode. The Orange have lost two straight and are almost assuredly on the wrong side of the NCAA bubble. CBS’ bracket expert Jerry Palm said, “Syracuse is about out of time and chances,” when it comes to an at-large bid.
The Syracuse zone, combined with the spacious Carrier Dome, could have an impact on UNC’s three point shooting. The Heels shot just 5-of-24 in the first game against Syracuse, and hit just 5-of-23 in the FSU game. Like everything else with the Heels, the three-point shooting has been maddingly unpredictable.
Usual starters for the Heels: Black, Brooks, Bacot, Love, Walton
Syracuse 0-for-4 from three, 1-for-1 from two, so the Orange appear to have zeroed in on a UNC weakness.
Kessler comes in and on his first touch hits Sharpe with a nice interior pass for a dunk
Sharpe fouled the next time down to take us to the under 16, UNC up 8-2.
Walton now 0-for-4 from three. He struggled against FSU too. Meanwhile, FSU has scored eight straight to cut the lead to one.
Last three times Garrison Brooks has gone up at the rim: Fouled on a dunk attempt (1-of-2 from the line), stripped on the way up, blocked. UNC up 14-10 at the under 12.
UNC up 19-5 in rebounding early.
Two more offensive rebounds lead to a Brooks dunk. Time out Syracuse, UNC up 16-10.
Carolina getting to the rim pretty regularly against the zone. Syracuse still has as many threes as twos. Needs to hang around until they start falling. 20-13 Heels at the under 8
Armando Bacot & Syracuse each have nine rebounds so far.
Despite the bloodbath on the boards, Syracuse is hanging around. At the under 4, it's 28-23 UNC. A few second-half threes and we've got a comeback on our hands.
Boeheim three cuts the lead to two. Walton has his second three-point attempt blocked this game. He's 0-for-5 from outside, UNC 0-for-7 from three.
UNC's ninth turnover allows Syracuse to tie.
Boeheim, three. Syracuse leads. I guess I was too conservative when I said it would take "second-half" threes for Syracuse to rally
Syracuse has taken 16 threes, 15 twos.
Boeheim, three. Syracuse takes the lead into halftime, 34-28. Absolutely brutal wasted opportunity for Carolina, who turned in a strong half and finished down a half dozen.
Same story as first half against FSU for the Tar Heels. 16 offensive rebounds, 10 second-chance points for a .63 points per possession when they get the offensive board. Racking up huge rebounding edges don't help when they result in three and four missed shot possessions.
Last time UNC went into both regular season Duke games coming off a loss: 2007. Lost at NC State in overtime before the first, at Georgia Tech in the second.
At the under 16, Syracuse leads by 6, 44-38.
8-0 run extends Syracuse's lead to 10.
This game is looking like the Marquette game. UNC just can't cut into the lead in the second half. Syracuse maintaining a 10-point lead with just over 2 minutes to play.
Love for three and UNC cuts the lead to six with 1:46 to go
Love scores again and cuts it to a two-point lead with 18 seconds left. UNC trying to steal one
Syracuse survives, 72-70, and UNC's path to the tournament just got steeper