The North Carolina Tar Heels are no certainty to make the NCAA tournament this season, so what happens in the last six games of their schedule will be the difference between making it to the dance or a NIT tournament appearance.
The Tar Heels (17-8) are tied for fourth place in the Atlantic Coast Conference with a conference record of 7-5.
Last week alone, the Tar Heels had two major conference matchups with the Miami Hurricanes and Duke Blue Devils, both resulting in a loss. While the game with Duke was close, the one with Miami was not.
North Carolina would rebound nicely after those two losses with a decisive victory over Virginia on Saturday. This win was huge for the Tar Heels because it helped them avoid their first three-game losing streak of the season and staved off a season sweep at the hands of the Cavaliers.
It was some much needed momentum for a team that had been struggling of late, and the Tar Heels must use it to their advantage as they come down the home stretch of this season with NCAA tournament hopes still in play.
UNC has a golden opportunity to potentially run the table in these last six games. At this point for the Tar Heels, the more wins the merrier or in this case, a NCAA tournament birth.
First up will be Georgia Tech (14-10). The Tar Heels should win this game after a strong showing in the pair's first meeting of the season that saw North Carolina win by 16.
One of the most difficult tests will come against North Carolina State (18-7). The Tar Heels lost their last meeting with the Wolfpack by eight points, but that was after a dreadful first half.
North Carolina would go on to recover nicely in the second half, but it was too late by then and the hole was too deep to climb out of. I'd expect the Tar Heels to come out of the gate better this time around.
After that, the Tar Heels have two should-win games against Florida State (14-11) and Clemson (13-11). If North Carolina can't emerge victorious in both of those games then they don't deserve to be in the tourney in the first place.
Aside from Duke, which team will present the toughest challenge to UNC?
Despite a 5-6 conference record, Maryland can be seen as a dangerous game for the Tar Heels. Sure, UNC did beat the Terrapins last time around, but that was after an abysmal 20-point second-half effort that would have doomed the Tar Heels had they not climbed out to a 42-20 first-half advantage.
Last, but certainly not least, the regular season finale against Duke.
This will be the most important game of the season for the Tar Heels as long as they go ahead and take care of business in the five games prior.
A win over Duke would give North Carolina a major credential on its NCAA tournament resume. It would prove that the Tar Heels can hang with some of the best teams in the nation, which up until this point hasn't really been proven.
This rivalry game was decided by just five points in Duke's favor last time, but UNC had plenty of chances to win down the stretch.
At the very least, the Tar Heels must make this a close contest. Depending on what they do up until this game, a nail-biter with Duke could still help the Tar Heels chances. If they are blown out, that will only make things more difficult.
It's that time of the year again when college teams must show they deserve to be in the NCAA tournament or else the selection committee will leave them out.
If UNC hopes to be one of the lucky teams, it must finish the season exceptionally strong in order to make the decision an easy one.