The Tar Heels return to Chapel Hill after back-to-back road games against Virginia and Louisville. Boston College come into the contest with an 8-10 record and have been wildly inconsistent, knocking off Notre Dame and Virginia Tech (and nearly beating Duke at home), but losing to the likes of Maine and Nebraska. To put it plainly, this is a team that Carolina should beat, especially at home.
But as we’ve learned this season, you can’t take anything for granted. With that in mind, here are three things to watch as Carolina hosts the Eagles on Tuesday night.
Armando’s ankle and Nance’s back
It was great to see Armando Bacot back on the floor at Louisville, even if he was moving gingerly to protect his ankle. Bacot’s tolerance for pain and Wolverine-like recovery speed are becoming something of Carolina legend. Pete Nance hasn’t been as lucky, out for three games now, and no word on whether he’ll be back in the lineup.
These absences have forced Hubert Davis’s hand a bit in giving more bench minutes. But if there had to be injuries to the post position this season, having games against Louisville and Boston College are kind of ideal.
The Eagles don’t matchup size-wise with UNC very well, with no rotation regulars over 6’9”. This means that Puff Johnson and Dontrez Styles can give minutes at the 4, while Jalen Washington can sub for Bacot at the 5 without giving up too much rebounding. If the smaller forwards for BC give the Heels trouble off the dribble, Leaky Black can slide down and assist as well.
If Nance needs to nurse his back for another week, Carolina should survive his absence here.
Caleb Love needs to get back in the groove
We know how high Caleb Love’s ceiling is. Now we need him to raise his floor.
If Carolina’s goal of winning the national championship is still a serious pursuit, it cannot be accomplished by benching Caleb Love. The Tar Heels need him to perform like he did against UCLA and Duke.
Caleb’s been mired in a shooting slump since conference play began. Without a made 3-point field goal against Louisville, he recently snapped a 45-game streak with at least one made 3-pointer, no small feat!
As long as Love doesn’t take shots too quickly, Carolina’s size (and hopefully rebounding) advantage could be used to let him explore the studio space and get his shot right in time for the NC State game on Saturday, a date that suddenly looks a bit spicier than originally anticipated.
Forcing turnovers and easy offense
Hubert Davis has the Heels running more as the season progresses, and the defensive intensity has turned up a notch. Against Louisville, UNC had 11 steals, leading to 17 fast break points and 23 points off turnovers total.
If Bacot’s ankle isn’t 100% and you don’t want him drop stepping and potentially aggravating it, a run-out dunk by Caleb or Leaky is a great substitute. Carolina’s depth at guard gives them the option to harass ball handlers for 90 feet and force turnovers or at least bad offense.
Makai Ashton-Langford is Boston College’s leading scorer. Look for UNC to try and wear him down similar to the way they did against El Ellis by having someone pick him up full court. RJ Davis, Seth Trimble, Caleb Love, and D’Marco Dunn all had turns, and they may run a similar rotation on Ashton-Langford to get into his legs and force misses in the second half.