UNC Wins ACC Championship: How the Tar Heels Capped a Spectacular Turnaround
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Step 1: Bring in a point guard who can actually lead the offense and who won't whine and then quit in the most cowardly way.
Step 2: Get your preseason All-American freshman more confidence.
Step 3: Start playing defense.
Step 4: Complete improbable season turnaround by defeating Duke at home.
Step 5: Capture ACC regular season championship and earn No. 1 seed in conference tournament.
That makes it five-for-five for the University of North Carolina Tar Heels.
Last night, UNC destroyed the Duke Blue Devils at home in the conference regular season finale.
The 81-67 victory gives the Tar Heels their first conference championship since 2009 and their third one in the past four seasons.
Now, they will walk into Greensboro this week as the top seed in the ACC Tournament, as well as a possible top-10 ranking on Monday morning.
Things have certainly turned around in dramatic fashion for this team, who started the season 4-3 and then got blown out at Georgia Tech in January.
Following a tough two-point loss to the Texas Longhorns (ironically, in Greensboro), the Tar Heels have won 17 of their past 19 games. Many people will want to point to one person for this incredible turnaround, but that would not be fair.
Nor would it be accurate.
Yes, Kendall Marshall has been absolutely amazing since the took over as the team's catalyst. His pass-first mentality is refreshing, but he has also developed a decent jump shot.
He can drive to the hoop and score, but he is even more willing to dish it back out to the open man. Marshall has been amazing and a huge reason for the success of this team.
But he is not alone. Harrison Barnes is still being criticized by the media for not putting up bigger numbers on a more consistent basis, but this kid wins. He hits big shots and has what it takes to improve each game.
People will continue to knock him for not putting up the types of numbers as that of Jared Sullinger of Ohio State or Terrence Jones or Brandon Knight of Kentucky, but Barnes proves he can hit the big shot when it counts.
But it does not stop there for Carolina.
John Henson has turned into a double-double machine and shot-blocker extraordinaire in the middle. He finished the regular season almost averaging a double-double, as well as averaging more than three blocks per contest.
Tyler Zeller also puts up his fair share of double-doubles and is also an inside presence. The fact that he has finally been able to stay healthy has been instrumental to this team's solid play.
The key with North Carolina has been the word "team." They play as a team. They get along as a team. They win as a team.
If one player has an off night, the rest of the team can pick up the slack and overcome one bad performance. They play a fast tempo type of game and don't rely on any one part of their game to win.
How was that three-point performance by Duke last night? You have to do more than hit three's to win big games.
North Carolina will now have five days off to prepare for the ACC Tournament. It begins Thursday, but the Tar Heels will have a first-round bye that will allow them to rest until Friday.
They could crack the top 10 this week, and they are currently looking at a No. 3 seed for the NCAA Tournament. But if they can win three games in Greensboro, that No. 3 could just as easily become a No. 2.
That was not even conceivable a couple of months back.
Now, it is a reality.
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