Despite all of its troubles, North Carolina still has a chance at a 20-win regular season if it can win its final two scheduled games starting with its trip to Tallahassee, Fla., to face host Florida State on Monday night.
The Tar Heels (18-11, 10-8 ACC), who were the national runner-up to Kansas last season, remain on the NCAA Tournament bubble and were listed among ESPN’s “Last Four Out” entering the week.
North Carolina has not missed the NCAA Tournament since the 2009-10 season and that was the only time it didn’t make it in the past 18 seasons when the tournament was held.
After losing five of their previous six games, the Tar Heels have won back-to-back contests to gather some momentum heading into a key match-up following a critical 71-63 victory over Virginia on Saturday.
Pete Nance, who is averaging 10.2 points per game this season, sparked the Tar Heels with 22 points and shot 7 of 10 from the field, including 4-for-4 from 3-point range.
“Pete started us off and was really hot from 3, and I’m just really happy for him,” North Carolina coach Hubert Davis said.
The Tar Heels will need to be on guard against the upset-minded Seminoles (9-20, 7-11), who stunned No. 13 Miami on Saturday on the road. Matthew Cleveland’s buzzer-beating 3-pointer lifted Florida State to an 85-84 win and capped a dramatic comeback from 25 points down in the first half. Cleveland and Darin Green Jr. each finished with 20 points as the Seminoles snapped a four-game losing streak.
While it’s been a challenging season for the Seminoles filled with injuries and a costly suspension to one of its promising first-year players in Baba Miller, the victory was a lift for a team filled with first- and second-year players.
“We did not tell our players anything at halftime that we didn’t tell them before the game started,” Florida State coach Leonard Hamilton said. “We just locked in. I thought we changed our mindset and executed a lot better.” –Field Level Media