ACC Tournament: #7 UNC vs #6 Maryland, 3:00 PM, RSN/ESPN3
UNC needs to win this game and not because it gets the Tar Heels into the ACC title game. The 3-2 loss to Virginia on Friday night eliminated UNC from the title game equation leaving the Heels to finish out pool play with Maryland. While this game means little in terms of UNC doing anything in the conference tournament, it certainly could have bearing on the Tar Heels even getting into the NCAA Tournament.
UNC is sitting at 33-25 and according to Warren Nolan is 44th in the RPI. A win versus Virginia would have been a major salve for the Tar Heels' bubble woes. As it turns out UNC has just the possibility of beating Maryland has their last, best hope to bolster the Heels' NCAA Tournament resume. The Terps are projected at #23 in the RPI so a UNC would have some value. It also means beating the traitorous Terps although it won't prevent Maryland from appearing in the title game. Maryland clinched that berth with Virginia's win over UNC on Friday.
Mike Fox will send freshman Zac Gallen to the mound in hopes of grabbing a desperately needed win. Gallen was fairly sharp last weekend against Miami in a game UNC lost 2-0. The Heels will need another solid outing here from the freshman if they are to avoid going 0-3 in pool play. If Gallen can give the UNC 5-6 innings then it stands to reason Trent Thornton, who has spent the season as the Tar Heels' top starting pitcher, will get some work in. Thornton pitched a short stint against NC State on Tuesday and would likely be able to give the Heels 2-3 innings of relief. In fact Thornton is probably going to get some work in to ensure he is ready for a possible start in the regional.
Then again, the pitching hasn't been the biggest issue for UNC this season. The little things from defense to not getting a timely hits has doomed the Heels time and time again. Solving those issues would in this game would certainly help.