By Doc Kennedy
Well, if you were going to script a run through Greensboro to secure UNC a berth in the NCAA Tournament, this was a pretty good one. Carolina opened ACC Tournament play clicking on offense, locked in on defense, and rolled to an 85–61 win over Boston College on Wednesday night.
The oft-quoted Ol’ Roy-ism of “everything looks better when the ball goes in the basket” surely applied against the Eagles. The Tar Heels topped a 50% 1st-half shooting performance by shooting at a 60% clip in the second half, finishing the night with a crisp 54.8%. Carolina was also efficient from three, going 10 of 24 for 42%.
Of course, as is par for the course for this team this year, much of what happened on Saturday against Duke was erased.
After shooting a season-low from the floor against the Devils, UNC went for over 50% in this game, and over 40% from three. After shooting a team-high 16 times against Duke, Leaky Black only took two shots, and no 3-point attempts. After being a non-factor just five days ago, Pete Nance chipped in 10 points, three rebounds, and four blocks in only 29 minutes. Sometimes following this group requires a good chiropractor for all the whiplash they can cause.
With that in mind, here is the Keeping Hope Alive in Greensboro, Round 1 edition of the Good, Bad, and Ugly Report:
Speaking of whiplash, you can expect some of that as part of the Caleb Love Experience™. Love had a game-high 22 points on 9 of 20 shooting and was locked in on defense with four rebounds and three steals.
The string of solid efforts by Davis continued as he chipped in 18 points on 7 of 12 shooting, including 4 of 6 from three to go with four rebounds, three assists and zero turnovers. Love and Davis don’t have to play well on the same night for UNC to be successful, but when they do, the team’s ceiling goes way up.
D’Marco Dunn, Seth Trimble and Dontrez Styles gave some key efficient minutes off the bench for the Tar Heels. The trio combined for 17 points, hitting 7 of 9 shots from the floor and 3 of 5 from three, adding two rebounds and two assists in a combined 29 minutes. UNC will need that kind of production from the bench to attempt to win four games in four days.
Johnson’s mostly no-good February and March continues after a period in January where fans were clamoring for him to start over, or at least take minutes from, Pete Nance. Minus the Clemson and Virginia games, Johnson is shooting 8 of 32 from the floor and 3 of 18 from three. The Tar Heels were counting on Johnson being a contributor and he will need to step it up this week in Greensboro.
Armando Bacot’s ankle injury
The Carolina senior was playing well in the first half when he injured his ankle and headed to the locker room. He came back out and played in the beginning of the second half before leaving around the under-16 timeout. Bacot finished with 10 points and six rebounds in only 18 minutes, but there is no sugar-coating it. UNC needs Bacot to give itself a chance to advance in this tournament.
Step 1 of 4 is complete for the Tar Heels, who picked up their 20th win of the season, but likely need at least two more wins in Greensboro to have any kind of confidence on Selection Sunday.
Next up for UNC is Virginia, who took advantage of a Bacot ankle injury to beat Carolina in Charlottesville in January, but the Heels returned the favor last month in the Smith Center. Good Caleb plus Good RJ plus solid Leaky and Nance plus reliable bench play bodes well for UNC, if Bacot is available. Without Bacot, it will be a crap shoot. UNC fans, welcome to Ankle Watch Thursday in the Old North State.
NOTE: Due to a work conflict, there will be no GBU Report for the Virginia game. I will be back in the saddle for Friday night’s game (note the confidence).
Doc Kennedy is an alum and longtime UNC fan, and a former high school and college basketball coach who wrote this report for years on Tar Heel Blog.
Photo courtesy of the ACC