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UNC Basketball: Don’t Panic

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It would have been hard to script a worse ending to UNC’s regular season. But that’s in the rearview now.

North Carolina v Duke Photo by Streeter Lecka/Getty Images

On Senior Night, after tying the game with seconds to go, giving up a game-winning three to a player who had single-digit makes on the season. Against Duke in the regular season finale, throwing away a double-digit lead and eventually losing by double digits. In the ACC standings, losing grasp of a double bye after having been control of our own destiny. Any argument for a 1-seed being thrown out the window straight into a garbage can.

As the season now shifts into win-or-go-home mode, it’s hard to say that UNC could have finished the season in a worse way. The optimism from that six-game winning streak seems like it’s melted all away, and it might be tempting to brace for the reality that the probability of a deep postseason run by the Heels is zero to none.

Well, I’m here to tell you the obvious: the season isn’t over. I can’t remember a season that’s been as wild and unpredictable top to bottom as this one. Top teams lost every weekend, games kept ending in increasingly implausible ways, and none of that is to mention all of the off-the-court stuff that has dominated news cycles this season, for better or for worse.

Plus, to say it has already been a roller-coaster season for the Heels would be an understatement. It feels like UNC has hit rock bottom three times this season: after the humbling MSU loss, at the tail end of that three-game skid, and as we threw away a season-defining win at Cameron Indoor Stadium. After those first two thuds, the Heels got right back up.

There’s no reason to believe that they won’t after this one.

UNC rattled off some of its best play this season after the Clemson loss. This team, led by a pair of seniors, buoyed by last year’s Final Four hero, and filled with players who leave it all on the court, is built to withstand adversity. After hitting the rock-bottom of rock-bottoms in 2016, they reached the summit in 2017 and are equipped to reach it yet again.

Losing the double-bye isn’t the end of the world, either. After that three games in five days stretch, we know that UNC’s rhythm is at its finest when the most is asked of the team. An extra game might just be what the team needs to springboard its momentum as we head towards the NCAA Tournament. Everything from here on out is bulletin board material, too.

If nothing else, here are some facts. Every game from here on out is one game closer to the last time we will have to acknowledge Greyson Allen as an influence in our lives. I look forward to 2019, when I will check Wikipedia in order to remember what European team he ended up on. I will not miss his trips and flops. And I will laugh as he walks off of the court in tears during the first weekend of the NCAA Tournament.

Long story short, this team plays at its best when overcoming adversity. And it’s hard to imagine a team crossing over from the regular season into single elimination mode while carrying more adversity.

Game on, and Go Heels!