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UNC vs. Pittsburgh: Three Things to Watch

Carolina returns home to play Pitt on Tuesday night.

NCAA Basketball: North Carolina at Miami Steve Mitchell-USA TODAY Sports

Carolina will return home to play Pittsburgh on Tuesday. They are coming off a very bad road loss to Miami on Saturday, and it will be interesting to see if they will rebound against the bottom-of-the-league Pittsburgh Panthers. Pitt is 1-7 in the ACC, however they’re still a dangerous team. The ACC has no push-overs this season, as was clearly evident in the Miami game. Here are three things to watch for the Pitt game.

How will Carolina react to losing to Miami?

Carolina’s loss on the road to Georgia Tech kicked off a seven-game win streak in the ACC, however the second game against Clemson was certainly not their best. They won in overtime 89-86, and that was only because Clemson guard Avry Holmes missed the front end of a 1-1 with five seconds remaining in regulation that would have given the Tigers the win. It will be worth monitoring whether the Tar Heels come out against Pittsburgh angry or if they will come out sluggish like they did against the Canes on Saturday. Thankfully this game is being played at home, as we have all seen how difficult road games in the ACC are this year.

Will Carolina’s Bigs show up to play?

Isaiah Hicks and Kennedy Meeks combined for just 12 points and 12 rebounds in the 77-62 loss to Miami in Coral Gables. Carolina got out-rebounded by a smaller Miami squad 41-36, something that should not happen. Carolina was #1 in the country prior to the Miami game in rebounding, and it’s easy to say that the Miami game was a fluke. It certainly might have been, however Carolina needs to once again be the dominant rebounding team that they were before if they want to beat a young but talented Pittsburgh team at home.

Meeks and Hicks, along with reserves Luke Maye and Tony Bradley, also need to be more aggressive scoring-wise. The four of them combined average 37.8 ppg, however they only had 22 combined points against Miami. Carolina is at its best when its bigs perform at their best, and if they can perform like normal then Pitt will be in trouble.

Will Theo Pinson return soon?

Carolina was without Theo Pinson for Saturday’s loss to Miami. Theo rolled his right ankle in the first half of the Heels’ 91-72 win over Virginia Tech on Thursday. What’s concerning is that he injured the same foot that he broke back in October. Roy Williams and Carolina in general have been secretive about Theo’s injury, and this has led to a lot of speculation. Could his injury be minor or more serious? Could he have re-injured the foot that he broke? Will he be back soon or is he done for the season? We don’t currently know.

Theo is a very important piece of this team. It is no coincidence that Carolina went 6-0 with him back, he provides an energy off the bench that turns this team from very good to great. During his six games back he averaged 6.2 points, 5.2 rebounds, and 3.3 rebounds per game. It will certainly not be a good thing for this team if he misses a large amount of time, especially with a very tough February schedule coming up. He has been ruled out for the Pittsburgh game, but we can remain hopeful that he could return for Saturday’s game against Notre Dame. Right now this is all guesswork and we will be able to make better assumptions once his true condition is known.

The game will be at 7:00 EST on ESPN2. This is the first of two scheduled match ups between the Heels and the Panthers, the second will be at Pitt on February 25th. Carolina defeated the Panthers twice last season, shooting 59% in both meetings, winning the first one 85-64 on February 14th and winning the second one 88-71 in the quarterfinals of the ACC tournament.