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UNC at Louisville: Three Things to Watch

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Which team will show up?

NCAA Basketball: North Carolina at Notre Dame Matt Cashore-USA TODAY Sports

I mean, it’s just gotten comical at this point.

Yup, right past sad, speeding past tragedy, and ended up at comedy. There’s really no other words to describe the absolute dumpster fire of a season that has become UNC basketball. It’s so bad that it’s broken Roy’s filter:

He’s beyond “frickin,” y’all.

Maybe, finally, the Tar Heels have gotten this out of their system and they can go into this next game looking for a win.

Checks schedule...right.

The season rolls on as the Tar Heels travel to the other food-chained franchise facility on Louisville’s campus. Here’s what to look for tomorrow on the court.

Does UNC pack it in?

To some extent, the Tar Heels should be commended over the fact that when they’ve had the opportunity to just go through the motions of the season, they’ve picked it back up and competed. After the tough loss to Boston College, for example, the Heels fought against FSU before wilting, and we all know the Duke game. They looked great against Notre Dame despite the heartbreak against Virginia.

The problem is the game between that Duke game and Virginia game. We all remember just how much of a steaming pile of garbage the Wake Forest game was, and there’s a real danger here that the Notre Dame loss could have been the final dagger for their desire to compete. They’ve done it too many times this season, and against a raucous Louisville crowd that is sensing a chance to win their first NCAA title since 1986 (I know what I typed), there’s a real chance an opening blitz by the Cardinals will have the Tar Heels quickly going through the motions.

We know know pretty quickly if this is setting up for another thrashing or another heartbreak.

Louisville and the Player’s Only Meeting

Anyone who’s a fan of Titus and Tate know the trope of the “player’s only meeting” that happens when things get really severe. Carolina had their own way back in December, but it was quickly forgotten about because of the injuries that continued to decimate the squad.

The Cardinals were rolling through their ACC schedule before a couple of head-scratching losses against Georgia Tech and Clemson. It was beginning to look like another late-season collapse by a Chris Mack team, but after the loss to the Tigers Louisville had their own players only meeting.

The result? The Cardinals blitzed Syracuse at home on Wednesday, and with Duke’s loss to the Wolfpack on Wednesday, the Cardinals take first place in the ACC by winning out. There’s a huge drop off after the top three in the conference, so that top seed carries extra importance.

Louisville does have to do the Saturday/Monday turn around, heading down to Tallahassee for arguably their toughest game left on the schedule. Will the Cardinals get caught looking ahead, or will the meeting after two questionable losses have been enough to keep them focused for the ACC top seed?

The Cole and Garrison Show

One of the real frustrations of this season and the injuries has been watching the natural progression of how Cole Anthony and Garrison Brooks working together. There was chatter that there was no way the two would be able to succeed at the same time based on Cole’s game, and yet as Anthony has moved further away from his knee surgery, the numbers show that the two are working together well.

Cole 24, Garrison 18 against Duke. Garrison 20, Cole 17 against Virginia. Cole 23, Garrison 22 against Notre Dame. In three of the last four games, those two have been the leading scorers in some order, each trying to do their part when defenses know that they are the ones who are going to be taking the shots. Stats whiz Adrian Atkinson even broke it down this way:

You can imagine a lot of things about this season, but this progression is something we likely would have seen in December/January had Cole been healthy, so one can only imagine how well they’d be clicking by now had he been able to play a full season. It’ll be interesting to see if this continues, or if with the return of Brandon Robinson and the increased confidence of Christian Keeling, the Tar Heels try to switch it up to pull off the upset.

The good news is they’ve had their heart ripped out so many times that if Louisvilles tries it again, they won’t be able to feel it.