North Carolina vs Pittsburgh, 1:00 PM, CBS
The last time UNC played Pitt was November 29, 1996. The Heels won 82-61 over the Panthers in Chapel Hill. In a little twist of irony this season and that season have two things in common: UNC beating Pitt and UNC starting ACC play at 0-3. For the most part the Tar Heels have recovered from the latter and now it would be extremely beneficial to repeat the former.
Both UNC and Pittsburgh have been in search of a quality win in conference play. While UNC registered three wins versus ranked teams earlier in the season, the list of impressive wins is fairly blank despite being 6-4 in ACC play. The same is true of Pitt with the notable difference being the Panthers have acquitted themselves better against common opponents Syracuse and Virginia than UNC did in their games against those teams. On the flip side Pitt has struggled recently with the barely squeaking by at home against a Virginia Tech team that hasn't won a game in the present calendar year a bit of a red flag. In short Pitt has been a tough team at times but this is still a winnable game for the Tar Heels.
The concern will be how UNC's offense performs against Pitt's defense. The offensive struggles for UNC are well-documented. Some of those struggles have been effectively mitigated by forcing turnovers, controlling the boards and forcing the tempo which in turn provides more opportunities. While being efficient on offense is preferable the next best thing is for a team to give itself as many opportunities as possible in an effort to overcome an inconsistency. Pitt is the sort of team that can take away the areas that UNC has relied on in the five game winning streak to get past the up and down nature of the offense.
That being said, the real foundation for UNC's success of late has been in the overall effort and intensity. An aggressive Tar Heel team playing with energy and focus has clearly been much better. Not to mention, this UNC team has shown itself to be pretty solid on the defensive end meaning this match-up could come down to which team simply gets it done on that end of the floor with more frequency.
With the shift in the schedule created by the postponement of UNC-Duke on Wednesday, the Heels have a chance to run the winning streak to six today and possibly seven on Monday before facing the Blue Devils. Whatever the case, UNC heads into this game having enjoyed a full week off even if it was totally unexpected.
UNC 69 Pitt 63