Thursday night's match up against Florida State will be a key game for No. 13 UNC in more ways than one.
First, it's the Tar Heels' ACC opener. Before conference play, they emerged as one of the nation's best teams, winning the Phil Knight Invitational and beating two ranked squads in the midst of a six-game win streak to start the season.
UNC also took care of its lesser competition, avoiding major upsets by overpowering opponents with lockdown defense and lights-out shooting.
Now with a plethora of good teams ahead and ACC tournament seeding in play, things will get tougher, and a strong start against conference teams will help.
Florida State is no slouch themselves, boasting a 12-2 record and averaging an ACC-best 87.9 points per game. Just like UNC, the Seminoles have four players averaging double-digit points, including first-year guard Ta'Niya Latson who's leading the ACC with 25 points per outing.
For UNC, this game is also an opportunity to bounce back from the loss to Michigan in the Jumpman Invitational. The Tar Heels had their worst shooting night of the season, hitting only 32.4 percent of their field-goal attempts, and they struggled to create offense with only nine assists.
That loss ended the Tar Heels' three-game winning streak and became their second defeat of the season, causing a seven-spot slide down the AP poll. With a victory over Florida State, UNC can shake off an unlikely shooting slump and get back on track.
The key for this game will be creating open shots with more ball movement and knocking those opportunities. UNC will have plenty of chances to score with Florida State allowing an ACC-worst 67.5 points per game, so there will likely be multiple Tar Heels scoring in double-digits once again.
Defensively, UNC will have to do what it has done well all season, which is pressuring the ball handler. The Tar Heels will have to especially keep the ball out of Latson's hands and create turnovers on the ball and in passing lanes to slow down the Seminoles' offense.
Tip-off will be Thursday at 8 p.m from Carmichael Arena.