While North Carolina's 82-70 win over Boston College on Tuesday night won't turn any heads, it was a road game the Heels simply couldn't afford to add to the loss column of their underwhelming NCAA Tournament resume.
A win's a win, right?
With Roy Williams' squad now back to over .500 in ACC play, let's break down where UNC sits on the bubble as we prepare to enter February.
The Eye Test
In a perfect world, there would be no RPI, no strength of schedule, no rankings and no "last 12 played." Instead, every team would be judged on, you know, how good it looks playing the game of basketball.
Unfortunately, there's no fair way to do that, as everyone's "eye" tells them something different.
Yet, it's still something worth addressing.
A look at the Tar Heels' recent battle with North Carolina State embodies what they've been this season: inconsistent.
Lorenzo Brown and the Wolfpack looked unstoppable as they embarrassed UNC—which looked completely uninterested in a major rivalry game—in every aspect of the game and coasted to a 61-33 lead with just over 13 minutes to go.
Naturally, the Heels responded with a ridiculous 50 points in the next 13 minutes to at least make their rivals sweat a little bit.
50 points. 13 minutes. NC State isn't what you would call a defensively focused squad, but the Heels' offensive firepower was evidenced during that span.
Still, though, Williams' crew is averaging just 1.005 points per possession, which ranks a meager 111th in America.
There is limitless potential on this team—I'm looking at you, Brice Johnson, P.J. Hairston and J.P. Tokoto—but seemingly too many problems to solve in the next few months.
A lack of leadership is a major issue. Marcus Paige's lack of size has been obvious and his effect on the game from the all-important point guard position has been minimal. James Michael McAdoo was supposed to step up as the team's go-to player, but he has been inefficient, inconsistent and failed to take the anticipated step forward as the superstar.
They don't take care of the ball. They don't defend the perimeter.
When you watch this team, it's clear that the future is bright, but the present is still very underwhelming.
Again, the RPI is a maddening ranking that most of us would like to do without, but the selection committee continues to honor it above all else, so we can't ignore it and all of its flaws.
In this case, that might be a good thing. The Heels, according to BBState.com, have an RPI of 35. That's a number that would be hard to turn down in March.
There's no question here. The Tar Heels are leaning on their 79-73 home win against UNLV in late December.
The Rebels currently have an RPI of 20 and will have several chances to improve that number playing in the stacked—that's right—Mountain West Conference.
UNC's next best wins are against Maryland (No. 62 RPI), Florida State (72) and Long Beach State (92).
This kind of embodies North Carolina's inconsistency.
On one hand, four of the Heels' six losses are "good" ones against Miami, Butler, NC State and Indiana, all teams with an RPI of better than 20.
But twice this season, UNC has slipped up. In December, it lost at Texas (No. 142 RPI), and in early January, it lost at Virginia (119).
How the Cavaliers finish the season could have a major effect on North Carolina's destiny.
In addition to its win over UNC, Virginia has solid wins over Wisconsin, Florida State, Tennessee and now, NC State. A December defeat at the hands of 2-17 Old Dominion, however, is holding Tony Bennett's squad back about 30 spots in the RPI.
No one loss is affecting a team more, and as a result, Virginia is one of the more interesting bubble cases.
To the "eye," that loss wouldn't be looked at as a negative one for North Carolina, but the numbers may not agree.
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