Roy Williams says a victory against UNLV could inspire confidence in his team. ROBERT WILLETT
CHAPEL HILL — Is it ever too early to start thinking about an NCAA tournament resume?
“It’s not for you guys, but it is for us,” North Carolina coach Roy Williams said earlier today, when I asked him that same question. “You know, I mean, I’m trying to figure out how the hell to get the ball in-bounds, is one of the things that we were thinking about.”
Williams said he doesn’t start thinking about an NCAA tournament resume until the ACC tournament, if he thinks about it at all. But this season, for this UNC team, thoughts of the NCAA tournament, and what it might take to make the field, don’t seem all that out of place in late December.
The Tar Heels have lost against the best non-conference competition they’ve faced: against Butler in the Maui Invitational, at Indiana and at Texas. UNC’s last remaining non-conference game is on Saturday here against No. 20 UNLV, and the Rebels represent the final opportunity for the Tar Heels to win a marquee non-conference game.
The Heels are ranked 50th in the RPI, while UNLV is 10th. Early-season RPI figures don’t mean all that much, especially when you consider that according to the RPI, UNC’s best win is against McNeese State (No. 59). Even so, UNC is running out of time to win a game of significance outside the ACC.
Not that Williams is thinking of the UNLV games – at least not exactly in those terms.
“I think for us, there’s no doubt it would help our confidence,” he said. “I think any time you play someone of this caliber and play well, you get more confident in what you’re doing yourself. And I think that does carry over.”
The Heels’ three losses have all been by double digits, and at times they’ve struggled in their victories, too. Williams thought back to his first season at UNC, and he said his team’s victory that season against top-ranked Connecticut provided a turning point.
The Heels lost their next game, against Florida State, but beating Connecticut inspired confidence, Williams said.
“I think one loss really hurts, and sometimes lingers,” Williams said. “But I do believe also that sometimes one win can really give you a little more confidence and linger a little bit, too. It just depends on which team.”