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NIT: #4 UNC at #2 UAB

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Where: Batrow Arena, Birmingham, AL
When: Tuesday, March 23rd, 9:00 PM
TV: ESPN
Records: UNC 18-16, UAB 25-8
NIT Results: UNC def. William & Mary, def. Mississipi St; UAB def. Coastal Carolina, def. NC State

I rummaged around the house and realized I used the last of the reverse mojo on the previous game so the Heels are on their own for this one. That and the shocking realization that, according to Dexter Strickland on Twitter, the Heels are once again sleeping in queen size beds at their hotel eschewing the twin beds that served them so well in Starksville. After the win in Starksville, if I were Roy Williams, I would have booked the Motel 6 for this one.

As Doc pointed out, this is where the rubber meets the road. UNC won the home game vs W&M and then pulled out a tough win at Mississippi St. While both wins required toughness and composure, a win at UAB should be considered a step forward from where this team has been most of the season. Is it a little late in the game? Sure, but the longer this team continues to play well, the more I am willing to buy into the idea that the rash of injuries that begin with the College of Charleston game was enough to throw this team completely out of kilter. Now, before I get 100 comments talking about Roy this and Deon that, let me just say this: Yes, there are many issues. There were many issues before those players got injured. What those injuries did was rob the Heels of any sense of consistency with the personnel. Obviously Tyler Zeller was very important and Marcus Ginyard has played better once he got some time between him and his foot issue. In short, UNC's margin of error was thin as it was and the injuries basically destroyed it and put them in a hole. Now that most everyone is healthy(and John Henson is playing the four) we see signs of this team coming together. The question that will be answered tonight is can they keep it rolling?

UAB is a good team. 23 wins for a Conference USA team is nothing to sneeze at and they handled NC State like someone had been talking trash about Mike Davis' mother. It will be a significant challenge to win at UAB not to mention the crowd is going to be rabid. Local newspapers are already calling this the biggest crowd to ever watch UAB play a game. Up or down, the words NORTH CAROLINA on Carolina blue means you get the equivalent of Hansbrough Indoor Stadium times ten on the road. When it is a mid-major school who almost never scores a BCS school much less the reigning national champions in a game that favors the home team, things will get nuts.

So don't be surprised at another 12-2 start by the opponent before UNC rights the ship and plays with a little composure. I think UNC has a legitimate shot to win. It is still not great basketball but I am encouraged by the way Will Graves and Larry Drew carried the team late in Starksville. I also think John Henson, playing against a smaller lineup, is capable of some freak plays.Iif Tyler Zeller does not play, things could get dicey. Let's hope he plays.

What the heck, let's try it one more time:

UAB 74 UNC 67