UNC Basketball: Highlighting Tar Heels' Toughest Conference Tests in 2013

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UNC Basketball: Highlighting Tar Heels' Toughest Conference Tests in 2013
USA TODAY Sports

The North Carolina Tar Heels have disappeared in big games this season, losing to Butler, Indiana and Texas by a combined 53 points. 

At 9-3, Roy Williams' Tar Heels may be in good shape for December. But with the conference season on the horizon, North Carolina must tighten things up and and fix what ails it if it is to be a legitimate contender in the ACC this season. 

The Tar Heels will certainly be tested come January.

Here we'll highlight North Carolina's toughest conference tests in 2013.

 

January 26: At North Carolina State

Grant Halverson/Getty Images

A lot of college basketball pundits expect North Carolina State to make a deep run in the NCAA tournament next spring, and for good reason.

The Wolfpack made a nice run in last year's dance and are off to a strong 8-2 start this season. NC State leads the nation this season in field-goal percentage as well. The Wolfpack are shooting 53 percent from the field as a team.

North Carolina will be faced with the stiff challenge of trying to beat NC State on its home floor as well, where it has been strong against non-conference opposition this season. The Wolfpack are 5-0 at home this season coming into their Saturday showdown with St. Bonaventure. 

 

February 13: At Duke

Lance King/Getty Images

At 11-0, Duke is the best team in the country, and could potentially still be undefeated when the Tobacco Road rivalry tips off in Durham on Feb. 13.

The Blue Devils already have wins over Kentucky, Louisville and Ohio State this season, two of which actually came on neutral floors. The home-court advantage Duke boasts at Cameron Indoor Stadium is well known and is another factor North Carolina will have to overcome in this conference clash.

Duke's biggest strength is its scoring offense this season. Only once through their first 11 games have the Blue Devils failed to score at least 73 points. North Carolina's defense will be put to the test in this matchup. 

Offensively, the Tar Heels can ill-afford to have a bad shooting night. 

 

March 6: At Maryland

Paul Frederiksen-USA TODAY Sports

The Terps have been arguably the biggest surprise in the ACC this season.

Why?

Maryland has won 10 straight games after dropping its season opener to Kentucky, and is developing into one of college basketball's most efficient squads.

North Carolina will have plenty of trouble trying to bring in rebounds on the road at Maryland. The Terps rank fifth in the nation in rebounds per game (44.4), and are also one of the country's best passing teams, averaging 18.6 assists per game.

In addition to excelling on the boards and in the ball-movement department, Maryland is a superb team from the field. The Terps rank 14th in the nation, shooting better than 49 percent as a team in 2012.

 

Follow Bleacher Report Featured Columnist Patrick Clarke on Twitter. 

Follow _Pat_Clarke on Twitter

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