Turbulent Tar Heels Head into Michigan State Game Searching for Consistency

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Turbulent Tar Heels Head into Michigan State Game Searching for Consistency
Kelly Lambert-USA TODAY Sports

To say that the first month of the North Carolina Tar Heels' season has been turbulent is a massive understatement. 

In their first six games of the 2013-14 campaign, the Tar Heels showed flashes of brilliance against Louisville, but also collapsed versus two mid-majors in UAB and Belmont. 

The first major hiccup came back on November 17, when Belmont stormed into Chapel Hill and defeated the Tar Heels 83-80. Most deemed that loss an early-season fluke because the Tar Heels did not play that poorly in their third nonconference clash of the season. 

In the loss to the Ohio Valley Conference newcomers, James Michael McAdoo led the way with 27 points while Marcus Paige and Brice Johnson both scored in double digits as well. 

Before Sunday's loss in Birmingham to UAB, the main reason for people to believe that the Belmont loss was a fluke was the resilience that the Tar Heels showed just a week later against Louisville in the Hall of Fame Tip Off Final. 

In the game played at the Mohegan Sun Arena in Uncasville, Conn., Paige went off by scoring 32 points against the then-third-ranked Cardinals. 

Mark L. Baer-USA TODAY Sports

All signs were pointing up for the Tar Heels for the rest of their brutal nonconference schedule until they were taken down by UAB on Sunday. 

Now that the Tar Heels are out of the AP Top 25, they will head into the Breslin Center on Wednesday night against the No. 1 Michigan State Spartans as massive underdogs. 

Despite being handed the underdog tag, Roy Williams' team still has a shot to win based on its past performance against Louisville.

If the Tar Heels want to right the ship, they will have to contain the guard duo of Gary Harris and Keith Appling, which is no easy task.

Without the suspended P.J. Hairston in the lineup, North Carolina has struggled to contain opposing guards, as it has allowed Louisville's Russ Smith to score 36, J.J. Mann of Belmont to net 28 and UAB's Chad Frazier to record a total of 25 points. 

If the guard play on the defensive end improves immensely in a short span of time, the Tar Heels will be a massive pain in the side of Michigan State. 

If not, Williams and the Tar Heels could be on the wrong end of a massive blowout in front of a national audience and spiral even further downhill. 

Another factor that will help North Carolina play at a more consistent level is McAdoo, who made just three field goals in the loss to UAB. 

With Hairston out and Paige occupied on the defensive end, it is McAdoo that has to become the best player in the lineup for his team to upset Michigan State and make any type of postseason run this season. 

If McAdoo can get going, he will be able to inspire the rest of his teammates to put in a better effort, which could result in a string of wins. 

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After the ACC-Big Ten Challenge showdown with the top team in the country, North Carolina will head home for six consecutive games. 

That span features one major clash with Kentucky, a very winnable matchup with Texas and four other games against lesser opposition. 

While they have a long way to go before we add them into the national conversation again, the Tar Heels will be able to avoid the criticism for now if they show up and actually give Michigan State problems. 

They do not have to win the game, but the Tar Heels do need to show that they are a consistent team. That will keep them from becoming the laughing stock of the nation this season. 

 

Follow me on Twitter @JTansey90.

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