CHAPEL HILL — Three North Carolina-related things to consider on this snow-melting Monday morning from Chapel Hill …
With four conference games remaining, Florida State, Duke and North Carolina have clearly separated themselves at the top of the ACC. All three teams are 10-2, and all will be vying during the next week and a half to secure the top seed in the conference tournament. The Tar Heels, though, have the most difficult road.
A look at the remaining schedules for each team:
-UNC: at N.C. State, at Virginia, Maryland, at Duke
-Duke: at Florida State, Virginia Tech, at Wake Forest, UNC
-Florida State: Duke, at Miami, at Virginia, Clemson
As you can see, the Tar Heels are the only team among these three that will go on the road three times over the final four games. All of those road games will be challenging, and Maryland played the Heels tough in College Park earlier this month.
The “easiest” way for UNC to win the regular-season title: Duke beats Florida State on Thursday, and then defeats the Hokies and Demon Deacons. Then UNC wins its next three, setting up a Duke-UNC regular-season finale for first place. It’d be fun.
Didn’t have time to spend a lot of time expounding on this last week, but it’s clear that Tar Heels point guard Kendall Marshall is a bit annoyed with what he perceives as negativity and criticism directed towards UNC. The Tar Heels have been a top-10 team all season, yet the way Marshall sees it, people just want to focus on the negative.
After UNC’s 73-64 victory at Miami last week, I asked Marshall about the team’s shooting woes.
He said: “I mean, it happens. I don’t want to focus on the negatives all the time. I feel like when win it’s why didn’t we win by more. And when we lose, it’s everything that we did wrong to lose. So I’m just happy that we were able to come into a hostile environment [and win]. … We were able to come in here and play well in the second half and win the game.”
I used part of his quote in the story I wrote and Marshall was asked about his comments on Saturday, after UNC’s victory against Clemson.
“I’m not here to point fingers,” he said. “It’s just questions all the time. We win a game, and they want to know why we didn’t win by more. You want to look at the positive things that you’re doing well and keep going along in a season and try to progress. It seems like they’re pulling you back on all the negativity. We’re just focused on the players in the locker room and the coaching staff and on each other and trying to get better.”
Asked if the expectations were too high or too much for this team, Marshall said: “I didn’t say it’s too much. I just made a statement. I feel like I can speak openly about those things and speak my mind about it. But it is. We were given high expectations and we want to meet those expectations as well as everyone else does. At the end of the day, it’s not going to be perfect, yellow brick road to get there. There are going to be bumps in the road, things we’re going to have to get better at. And that only comes with time.”
The UNC baseball team has Omaha aspirations this season, and the Tar Heels began the season over the weekend by winning two out of three against Xavier. The Heels won, 10-2, in the first game of a double-header on Friday, but then suffered a 10-4 defeat in the second gmae before finishing the series with a victory on Saturday.
Next up: Wright State in a three-game series this weekend.