North Carolina has plenty of work to do between now and March Madness.
As of the end of December, the team is unranked nationally and fifth in the ACC. For the Tar Heels to earn a favorable seed in the NCAA Tournament, they must do more than take care of business against inferior foes. UNC needs to show flashes of brilliance against respected competition as well, which it hasn’t been able to do this season.
Here are North Carolina’s most important games in 2013.
3. January 19 and March 6 vs. Maryland
After struggling mightily against Cody Zeller and Indiana, this will be James Michael McAdoo’s best opportunity to redeem himself against a top-notch pro prospect.
7’1”, 255-pound Alex Len has led Maryland to a 10-1 record on the back of his 14.4 points and 8.8 rebounds per game—both team highs. While the Terrapins will arguably have the most dominant player on the court, UNC is much deeper. It averages 8.2 more points per game than Maryland and has the talent to sweep them in their two showdowns.
2. January 26 and February 23 vs. NC State
While the Tar Heels are deeper than Maryland, NC State is one of the most balanced teams in the nation. Five of its players average double figures in scoring. As a result, the Wolfpack boast the highest field-goal percentage in college basketball.
Once again looking back to McAdoo, the potential NBA lottery pick must go off. He’ll without a doubt be the best player on the court, and he must perform as such.
It’d be nice to sweep NC State, but with the Wolfpack being ranked No. 23 and all, North Carolina should be content to split the season series.
1. February 13 and March 9 vs. Duke
Any win against Duke, on the other hand, would be a huge boost for UNC.
The Blue Devils are the No. 1 team in the nation, and they already have wins against then-No. 2 Louisville, No. 3 Kentucky and No. 4 Ohio State. Even though there’s over half the season still to play, people are talking about them running the table.
The Tar Heels have Duke at home for senior night this season. If they’re able to pull off the upset, it’d be their biggest win of the year by far.
David Daniels is a featured columnist at Bleacher Report and a syndicated writer.