The North Carolina Tar Heels finish the back end of their road trip with a visit to Louisville Saturday afternoon.
Despite some of the silver linings from a tough loss, Carolina is now on the outside looking in at the NCAA Tournament.
In this scenario, a team must win the ones in which they are favored. This is the case with the lowly Cardinals tomorrow.
Here are a few things to watch when UNC steps foot in the KFC Yum! Center.
How to Handle Injuries?
It seems to be a foregone conclusion that Armando Bacot will be injured, at least on some level, for the rest of the season. He’s injured a shoulder and both ankles, and the list could grow with whatever else comes with banging in the paint in the ACC. But you know he will want to play through any type of lingering pain.
As Bacot left the court after just over a minute of play against Virginia, he said to Hubert Davis, “I just need to tie my shoe, and I’ll be back out there.”
The Tar Heels were already without Pete Nance in the Virginia game, and there is uncertainty for both players over the next few.
If there is availability for these players, should they step on the court against the 2-15 Louisville Cardinals?
Hopefully, the Tar Heels can rest these players for the next two games.
Next Steps for the Freshmen
With Bacot and Nance lost to injury, Seth Trimble and Jalen Washington were the top options for UNC.
Trimble will continue to be relied upon for energy, defensive intensity, and stat-stuffing contributions. Virginia challenged Trimble, but the experience will pay off in the long run.
Charlottesville was the first real chance for Washington. The 6’ 10” freshman logged 27 minutes of play, 20 minutes more than his previous high against Notre Dame.
In scoring 13 points, Washington tallied 12 in the first half. Defensive changes and the grind of the collegiate game were effective in slowing down the freshman, but his solid start demonstrated that he was ready to play.
Washington will have a good test against senior Sydney Curry. Although Washington has the height advantage, Curry has about 50 pounds on the freshman.
How will Washington hold up on defense? Will he use his soft hands on the offensive side of the floor?
Learn to Finish
Here’s one part of that silver lining against Virginia: Carolina’s largest lead was nine points in the first half and led by as many as seven early in the second half.
But UNC lost by seven.
At Pitt, Carolina was up by nine with about 12 minutes left in the game.
Against Alabama, UNC was up by eight with nine and a half minutes left in the second half and had a six-point lead in triple overtime.
In their first loss of the season, the Tar Heels were up seven with just over five minutes left versus Iowa State.
In four of six losses, Carolina had three-possession leads in the second half.
If this team wants that run to Houston, they must learn how to finish.
The oddsmakers do not foresee that type of game on Saturday, but if Carolina is in a tight contest, they absolutely must close out the game.