WASHINGTON, D.C. -- North Carolina is talented. You don’t get to 26-6 on the year and play in the ACC without being so. Everyone remembers the 89 points they hung on Maryland in a game that, to that point in the season, was likely the country’s most exciting back-and-forth game.
But dynamics change in a single-elimination tournament. With six victories standing between any team and a national championship, any one loss and you’re out, which does not work in the Tar Heels' favor considering their biggest weakness: three-point shooting.
We’re not talking just a weakness. We’re talking North Carolina entered Thursday’s ACC tournament game against Pittsburgh ranked 311th of 351 teams in the country in shooting from deep (31 percent). That’s tied with Minnesota, Navy, and Missouri.
Ironically enough, that weakness helped North Carolina pull away in an 88-71 victory over the Panthers at Verizon Center to advance to the ACC semifinals. The Tar Heels shot 6-of-14 from three for the game -- nearly 13 percentage points higher than their season average.
“At the end of the day, when we have that threat there we know we can shoot,” forward Justin Jackson said. “We just haven’t done it very well with this year. So when we’ve got that other aspect along with inside play and driving the ball, I mean, we’re a hard team to guard."
Even so, for as talented as they are, can we trust a team whose best players do almost all of their work in two-point range?
The concern is not a Round of 64 upset or a first-weekend exit. We’re talking deep into March where matchups are amplified. All it would take is one team hot from three and it would be difficult for North Carolina to keep pace.
Every team has flaws. This is North Carolina’s. But if they can even shoot like they did Thursday, the confidence in this team as a Final Four lock could be solidified .