Turnovers and aggressive play ruled in Cameron Indoor Stadium as #22 UNC swept the season series to end #11 Duke’s undefeated home season and chance for the Blue Devils to take first place and top seed in the ACC Tournament.
UNC makes statement 91-71 over Clemson
Let’s not overstate it, but the North Carolina team that we expected to see all year finally arrived! Steady defense and attention to detail carried the day. Good shot selection off of extra passes and focused guard play helped to show just how good this team can be if they play smartly with a sense of urgency on offense and defense as they did on Saturday.
Little things matter. Who handles the ball and who moves to get open to receive a pass when a teammate is double-teamed. Who plays within the flow of the game, and who dictates the tempo. Leaky Black handling the ball more and initiating the offense was one of many changes that helped UNC’s outlook. Basketball ball is simple. UNC made it hard before this game. It was also a positive sign to see substitutions early in the first half of the game and to see all five starters taken out of the game with 4:22 on the clock. The backups also maintained the lead to close the game. Can the fun continue? We will find out on Monday when Miami comes to town.
Black history moment for ACC officials
James Burch became the first African-American to officiate an ACC basketball game in 1969. Fifty-three years later three African-American officials, Ted Valentine, Jemel Spearman, and Clarence Armstrong called the game between UNC and Clemson in Chapel Hill.
Chasing St. Mary’s
St. Mary’s is the lone undefeated team within a major conference at 20-4 and 10-0 in the West Coast Conference. The ACC, Big 12, Big 10, SEC, American, Big East, and other conferences are all beating up on each other and usual conference leaders including North Carolina, Duke, Kansas, Kentucky, Michigan St, and others are looking to have six or more conference losses before the end of the season. Relaxed transfer rules and the extra year of eligibility granted to all players on teams during the first season affected by the Covid-19 pandemic have changed the way rosters are shaped. Some players that had been granted a fifth year of eligibility also got a sixth year to complete their playing time. This has helped to narrow the talent gap as teams that traditionally attract the best high school players are also having to adapt to recruiting experienced transfer players to compete with teams that are having success recruiting more mature players through the transfer portal.
ACC Big Four
The Big Four ACC college basketball teams (North Carolina, Duke, NC State, and Wake Forest) provide a good example of how different teams are put together and how balanced the conference is. North Carolina has one transfer and relies heavily on multi-year players. Wake Forest and NC State reshaped their rosters with as many as 8 transfer players, and Duke has seven freshmen plus transfers on its roster. The results have been somewhat surprising. North Carolina easily beat Wake Forest and NC State at home but struggled with Duke in a loss on the road. NC State beat Duke soundly at home, won a tight matchup against Wake Forest on the road, and had the previously mentioned loss to North Carolina on the road. Duke suffered double-digit losses to Wake Forest and NC State on the road but held off North Carolina at home. Like the rest of the major conferences the ACC is balanced. Results from Big Four play provide a good example of what we should expect from other conferences this college basketball season.
Pitt wins again in Chapel Hill
Again? Yes, again! North Carolina left many leaving the Smith Center concerned after witnessing another mostly undisciplined game after a long break and time to PRACTICE! The Tar Heels almost overcame a poor performance. After shooting just 34.8% from the floor, going just 23-66, including 18.5% on 5-27 three-pointers, and missing 9 of 22 free throws UNC was still in the game against a Pittsburgh team that managed to win on 25-55 attempts from the floor, including 7-19 on three-point attempts. North Carolina fans may want to say they did it to themselves again. That would be true. But playing Pitt’s game without playing with the same grittiness proved disastrous again.