UNC Basketball: Ranking the Biggest Games Left on Tar Heels' Schedule

Rob GoldbergFeatured ColumnistJanuary 24, 2016

UNC Basketball: Ranking the Biggest Games Left on Tar Heels' Schedule

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    Grant Halverson/Getty Images

    North Carolina has really hit its stride with 11 wins in a row, but a back-loaded ACC schedule will certainly make things interesting over the next couple of months.

    While the Tar Heels have had some scares in recent weeks, they have pulled out wins while teams across the country continue to struggle. They have a 7-0 record in the conference and remain top contenders to bring home an ACC regular-season title.

    However, the rest of the year will be filled with new types of challenges. The conference's best teams still remain ahead on the schedule and should provide some exciting battles going forward.

    From a fan's perspective, these are the games you should make sure to watch.

5. Feb. 20 vs. Miami

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    Geoff Burke-USA TODAY Sports

    Notre Dame and Pittsburgh could be major threats in the ACC, but Miami might be a tougher team to beat this season.

    After a few off games, Angel Rodriguez is back to being one of the steadiest point guards in college basketball. He and Sheldon McClellan represent an experienced backcourt, while players like Ja'Quan Newton and Davon Reed are always threats to go off on a given night.

    Tonye Jekiri could also really frustrate North Carolina's big men in the post.

    The squad simply plays an efficient style with few mistakes on either end of the court. With quick guards who can create their own shot, the Hurricanes could give the Tar Heels a hard time defensively on the perimeter.

    Even at home, North Carolina could have its hands full with this matchup.

4. Feb. 17 vs. Duke

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    Jeremy Brevard-USA TODAY Sports

    Duke has struggled a bit lately with three losses in its last four games, including home games against Notre Dame and Syracuse. The young team clearly didn't come into the year as ready to contend as last year's version, although counting out Mike Krzyzewski and company would be a mistake.

    The Blue Devils bounced back recently with a win over North Carolina State and still have elite scorers in Grayson Allen and Brandon Ingram, two of the tougher defensive assignments in basketball.

    If Amile Jefferson returns to the lineup (foot injury), this squad will once again be a legitimate contender in the ACC and nationally.

    More importantly, this game is college basketball at its finest with Duke and North Carolina resuming one of the best rivalries in sports. You can be certain the fans in Chapel Hill will be as loud as they can be, hoping to watch their team take advantage of Duke in a down year.

    Even if it turns out to be a blowout, those in Carolina blue won't be too upset.

3. Feb. 27 at Virginia

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    Geoff Burke-USA TODAY Sports

    Virginia is not quite as good defensively as it was last season, but the offense remains as efficient as ever.

    While London Perrantes doesn't always put up big numbers, he is an extension of his coach on the floor and always seems to make the right decisions on the court. 

    Malcolm Brogdon and Anthony Gill have also become go-to options who are tough to stop. Considering Brogdon had 42 total points in two games against UNC last season, you can be certain he will have the team's attention.

    Even with just a 4-3 record, Virginia remains one of the top challengers for an ACC title this season. This makes the one regular-season battle between these teams an important one.

    If the Tar Heels can steal a road win, it could be an important stepping stone toward a great season.

2. Feb. 1 at Louisville

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    Louisville doesn't have many great wins on its resume, but this could be the toughest game left on the schedule for North Carolina.

    The Cardinals have one of the best defenses in the nation, with opposing teams unable to get any easy looks near the basket. According to KenPom.com, they rank second in the nation with just a 39.6 opponent field-goal percentage on two-point shots.

    This could be an issue for North Carolina and its reliance on inside scoring.

    While Louisville lost its two biggest games of the year to this point, both came on the road at Michigan State and at Kentucky. This matchup will be a chance to knock off a top team in the comfort of its home arena. It will also be an opportunity to silence any doubters.

    North Carolina should be ready for a serious challenge in this upcoming road game.

1. March 5 at Duke

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    Will two games against the same team be among the biggest of the season, even if that team isn't as good as initially anticipated? You betcha.

    As previously mentioned, Duke is still a pretty good team even with the recent losses. The squad will also improve as the year continues with so many freshmen playing a major role on this team.

    To make this game even better, it is the last one of the regular season and could therefore feature some major implications. North Carolina could be looking to clinch an ACC title or lock down a No. 1 seed, and no matter how good the Blue Devils are, they will do what they can to play the role of spoiler.

    North Carolina will try to stay composed in the face of the Cameron Crazies, creating one of the more highly anticipated battles of the season.

     

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