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After bringing a six-game winning streak into the final week of regular-season play in the Atlantic Coast Conference, North Carolina was unable to keep that momentum, dropping the final two games of the regular season and costing the Tar Heels a double bye in the ACC Tournament.
As the No. 6 seed, Carolina, which must now win four games in four days to claim the ACC Tournament title, will open tournament play Wednesday at 9 p.m. in The Barclays Center in Brooklyn, New York, against the winner of Tuesday’s first-round contest between No. 11 seed Syracuse and No. 14 Wake Forest.
“I tell my guys all the time, I liked it better when I was saying I am packing three suits,” Roy Williams said in his Monday press conference. “Now I have to pack four.”
Nevertheless, Williams made it clear that the objective hasn’t changed. “If we are going to play, I want to win the thing.”
LOST IN THE INTERIOR
Saturday’s contest against Duke was a mirror image of the Tar Heels’ 82-78 win at home Feb. 8, as Carolina dominated the first half only to go cold in the second frame. This time, however, the rival Blue Devils dominated the interior on the way to handing the Tar Heels a 74-64 loss.
After only managing 25 points in the first half, Duke scored 49 in the second, thanks to the interior dominance of 6-foot-11 freshman Marvin Bagley III, who scored 18 of his 21 points in the second half to go along with a game-high 15 rebounds. Once Bagley got going, Duke was able to get better looks from outside, shooting 8 of 15 from deep in the second half after going only 1 of 10 in the first half.
On the flip side, once Duke began to come alive, Carolina seemed to lose its offensive aggression, with 31 of the Tar Heels’ 70 shots (44 percent) coming from 3-point range. In consequence of not attacking the basket, Carolina only attempted five free throws, only one of which came in the second half.
Duke also outrebounded Carolina 24-13 after halftime, another sign of what Joel Berry II called “timid” play in the second half and yet another example of how this Carolina team’s success remains closely linked to rebounding success.
MAYE, BERRY NAMED ALL ACC
Berry and junior Luke Maye were named to the All-ACC team after becoming the first pair of UNC teammates to average over 17 points per game in a season since 1984, when Sam Perkins and Michael Jordan achieved the feat.
Maye, who improved his scoring average by 12.2 points per game over last year, was also named the ACC’s Most Improved Player. Maye is the first player in NCAA history to average over 10 rebounds per game while also shooting over 45 percent from 3-point range.
TAR HEELS AT THE COMBINE
Two former UNC football players took part in 2018 NFL Scouting Combine over the weekend in Indianapolis. Linebacker Andre Smith measured 6-0, 237 pounds and impressed with a faster-than-expected 4.63 in the 40-yard dash — even more impressive for a player coming off a season-ending injury in 2017. Smith also completed 19 reps on the bench press. He is expected to be a late-round pick.
Cornerback M.J. Stewart measured 5-10 7/8, 200 pounds with a wingspan of 75 3/8 inches. The latter number is especially important for a shorter cornerback, as it indicates Stewart should have sufficient length to contend with bigger receivers.
Stewart also met or exceeded expectations during physical testing, running 4.54 seconds in the 40 and benched 225 pounds 18 times (tied for third at his position). Those numbers, combined with a solid performance in on-field drills and stellar play in Senior Bowl week, should ensure that Stewart is picked in the first half of April’s NFL Draft.
SPRING PRACTICE DATES SET
Carolina has released its spring football practice schedule, including the spring game, which is slated for April 14 in Kenan Stadium.
BASEBALL SEASON UNDERWAY
With its 13-8 win over Liberty on Sunday, the UNC baseball team has bounced back from losing a weekend series to ECU a week ago and pushed its record to 7-5 on the season, including a four-game winning streak.
STAT OF THE WEEK
Miami beat UNC last Tuesday despite eleven assists from Theo Pinson, only the second time Carolina has lost in 17 games when Pinson has five or more assists. After the loss to Duke in which he had three, Carolina is only 7–7 when Pinson has not reached five assists.