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The Mountain Ahead

Assuming UNC is done with the valley and only time will tell that for sure, the Heels still have a pretty tough mountain to climb. UNC sits at 2-3 in the ACC and 13-7 overall. To get to twenty wins means they would have to go 7-4 down the stretch and out the Heels at 9-7 in the ACC. With two homes losses means the Heels are going to have to commit grand larceny a few times over the final month plus of the regular season. The N&O broke down UNC's remaining schedule.

Must win these: vs. Virginia (on Sunday) vs. N.C. State (Feb. 13), at Boston College (Feb. 20); vs. Florida State (Feb. 24), vs. Miami (March 2).

Virginia and Miami, despite good starts, have shown why they were picked to finish near the bottom of the league in recent performances.

Even though it beat Clemson on Tuesday, Boston College hasn't proven that its veterans know how to play together consistently.

The rematch with N.C. State, plus the matchup with FSU, are at home, and the Tar Heels must use their crowd to their advantage -- especially since they have already lost two ACC games in the Smith Center.

Challenging, but winnable: at Virginia Tech (Feb. 4), vs. Duke (Feb. 10), at Georgia Tech (Feb. 16); at Wake Forest (Feb. 27).

The Tar Heels have won one ACC road game. Can they win more? That's the conundrum here, especially against the Yellow Jackets and Demon Deacons, who have claimed wins already this season over the Tar Heels.

Duke, meanwhile, is clearly the better team right now, but it's an anticipated national rivalry - and emotions will be running high, what with UNC planning to retire Tyler Hansbrough's jersey at halftime.

Looking for an upset: at Maryland (Feb. 7) and at Duke (March 6).

The Heels have lost two in a row on the Terps' home court, and Gary Williams is quickly coaching his team into a serious contender to win the ACC. Meanwhile, the Tar Heels have won four straight at Cameron Indoor Stadium, but Hansbrough -- a big key to that streak -- now plays in the NBA.

Some of this is predicated on Ed Davis being completely healthy, Roy Williams figuring out that Larry Drew and Dexter Strickland should be on the court 30 minutes per game together and Tyler Zeller coming back by the game in Atlanta vs Georgia Tech.  Unfortunately, there are four road games in particular which I think are going to be extremely tough to win. UNC never plays well at Maryland or Georgia Tech. The 2007-09 teams were 0-2 at Maryland and also lost at home to the Terps in 2008. Going into Cameron with a team that has not been strong on the road will be equally tough and I still think the matchup with Wake Forest is not the best. On the bright side UNC has a little time to gel before hitting all of those games save the one at Maryland. With those four being so tough it means winning in Blacksburg and beating Duke at home are must wins essentially as are...well...the other five games. In short, there is no margin of error left.