For a normal UNC game in the Elite Eight, you’d be a bundle of nerves the entire time. You might pace your living room, change shirts at halftime if the original one betrayed you, or refuse to move from the spot where you started if it all went well.
This UNC Elite Eight game was different, though. Saint Peter’s proved to be what the doctor ordered for high blood pressure and anxiety, as UNC went up big early and never looked back as they advanced to the Final Four with a 69-49 win over the Peacocks.
Armando Bacot was, as he has been so often this season, excellent. He tallied 20 points and 22 rebounds to lead the way for the Tar Heels. Brady Manek, who has never played this deep in the tournament, was just behind him with 19 points. Caleb Love, who is the reason Carolina was even in this position, also finished in double figures with 14 points and just two turnovers.
Saint Peter’s struggled to find the rhythm that made them this tournament’s Cinderella team early on against Hubert Davis’ squad. Carolina raced out to a solid 20-point lead and then managed to float around in the vicinity of that mark for pretty much the majority of the game. There was a scoring drought of more than six minutes for the Tar Heels that might have made some a little nervous, but it was much ado about nothing in the end.
Despite the fact that the Peacocks play a much deeper bench than the Heels, and Carolina’s starters have often been left to run on fumes, it was not enough to overcome the 30% shooting from the field for Saint Peter’s. The Peacocks had managed to get to the free throw line with ease in the big wins that got them to the Elite Eight, but they were not really able to do so against UNC. The Peacocks shot ten free throws and made nine of them, but UNC made 13 of their 21 attempts.
Of course, all eyes now turn to the matchup that the internet has been dying to see: UNC vs Duke in the Final Four. The Blue Devils would undoubtedly love to get revenge from their last meeting in Durham earlier this month. It’s safe to say that Carolina has made it farther into the tournament than almost anyone thought they would, and are probably playing with house money at this point. It doesn’t make the desire to beat their biggest rival and make it to the national championship any less fervent.
The Tar Heels will take on the Blue Devils on Saturday in New Orleans. Invest in your sedatives of choice between now and then.