Roy Williams and the North Carolina Tar Heels (11-5, 1-2) are used to looking down at the competition in the ACC, but the 2012-13 season has been different for UNC.
Following a 4-0 start to the season, the Tar Heels are just 7-5 since the hot start, highlighted by a two-game losing streak to fellow ACC teams Virginia and Miami, which have each gotten off to sensational starts this season and appear to be much-improved from just a year ago.
Since losing Tyler Zeller, Harrison Barnes, John Henson and Kendall Marshall to the NBA, it's no secret that North Carolina has taken a step back from its usual dominance.
James Michael McAdoo, Reggie Bullock and P.J. Hairston aren't quite the scorers that Barnes, Zeller and Henson were, and it's certainly showing this year.
With less talent than usual, UNC will have a tough time finishing the season strong with such a strenuous remaining schedule.
As most college basketball fans know—or should know—the Tar Heels have yet to play the rival Duke Blue Devils yet this season, which means UNC still has to see No. 3 Duke twice this season.
On top of that, North Carolina will get a tough Maryland squad on Jan. 19 followed by No. 14 North Carolina State on Jan. 26.
Perhaps the toughest stretch of the schedule comes between Feb. 9 to the 16th, with the likes of Miami, Duke and Virginia all coming in consecutive games.
Even after that, UNC still has to go through NC State, FSU, Maryland and Duke just to finish the season.
With a handful of improved teams in the ACC—including Miami and Virgina—the Tar Heels' schedule doesn't seem to favor them one bit.
I have all of the faith in the world in Roy Williams to get the best out of his squad, but the level of competition his North Carolina team will be forced to face may ultimately see UNC's season end early come March.
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