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No. 19 North Carolina adds another head-scratching loss to its resume

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The 2013-14 season seems to have taken on a consistent pattern for No. 19 North Carolina: get up for, and beat, some of the nation’s best teams while suffering losses that make us wonder who they are and what they’re capable of.

The latest piece of evidence to support this was their 73-67 loss at Wake Forest on Sunday night, with the Demon Deacons winning despite the fact that North Carolina rebounded 48% of its missed shots. UNC converted those extra opportunities into just 17 points, and for the game they shot 39% from the field. From an execution standpoint once again it was a matter of Marcus Paige’s struggles affecting the entire offense, with the Tar Heels being so reliant on his ability to score on the perimeter.

Wake Forest was able to take that away, keeping Paige under wraps and contesting nearly all of his looks from the field (eight points on 3-for-12 FG, six assists). When that was combined with Wake Forest outworking North Carolina on both ends for a significant portion of the second half as they built up an 11-point lead, the hole was ultimately too deep for the Heels to climb out of.

Jeff Bzdelik’s team certainly deserves credit for this, and regardless of North Carolina’s issues this is a big win for a program that has struggled mightily during the Bzdelik era. Travis McKie led four players in double figures with 16 points, and if reserves such as Arnaud Adala Moto (11 points, nine rebounds) and Coron Williams (eight points) can build on their performances that would be big for a team that has some talented players but lacks depth.

To North Carolina’s credit they were able to fight their back into the game, pulling to within a point of Wake Forest with just over one minute remaining. But the problem is that it took a double-digit deficit for Roy Williams’ team to show the effort required to win. It’s been said before and it needs to be said again: this team isn’t good enough to get away with giving the minimum amount of effort and failing to execute offensively.

With Sunday’s defeat falling in line with North Carolina’s season to date, it’s time to accept what the remainder of the season will be for the Tar Heels: a wild ride that includes both big wins and head-scratching losses. The question is whether or not North Carolina can avoid racking up too many of those defeats.

PREGAME SHOOTAROUND: A Big 12 and a Big Ten showdown

Denzel Valentine
(AP Photo/Al Goldis)
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GAME OF THE NIGHT: No. 10 West Virginia at No. 6 Kansas, 7:00 p.m.

The last time these two teams got together, West Virginia actually knocked off Kansas in Morgantown. It was the third time in the last three seasons that WVU has beaten KU at home. So there’s some revenge at stake here. But there’s also the whole Big 12 title race, which West Virginia currently leads. If the Mountaineers win tonight, they’ll be up by two games on Kansas with the tie breaker and just seven games left to play. The Jayhawks regular season title streak could be over if that happens.

THIS ONE’S GOOD, TOO: No. 8 Michigan State at No. 18 Purdue, 7:00 p.m.

We think the Spartans are back to their early season form after wins over Maryland (at home), Northwestern, Rutgers and Michigan. If Michigan State really wants to prove something to the college basketball world, they will go into West Lafayette tonight and get a win. Denzel Valentine vs. Raphael Davis will be fun.

FIVE THINGS TO WATCH FOR

  1. Pitt will pay a visit to No. 12 Miami in a game the Panthers could really use a win in. Pitt hasn’t been the most consistent team in the country and without adding a few quality wins they could be looking at the bubble.
  2. Duquesne will be paying a visit to No. 19 Dayton, who moved into a tie for first place in the Atlantic 10 thanks to VCU’s loss on Saturday.
  3. Georgia is right there on the bubble, and they will have a chance to try and push themselves into a better spot when they play at No. 22 Kentucky tonight.
  4. Creighton probably has to win out to have a shot of making the NCAA tournament, and that includes tonight, when they host No. 5 Xavier.
  5. No. 7 Virginia will be hosting Virginia Tech, who picked off the Wahoos in Blacksburg earlier this year.

THE REST OF THE TOP 25

  • No. 1 Villanova at DePaul, 8:30 p.m.
  • No. 25 Wichita State at Drake, 8:00 p.m.

 

PLAYER OF THE YEAR POWER RANKINGS: Buddy Hield isn’t going anywhere

Oklahoma guard Buddy Hield (24) drives to the basket as LSU guard Antonio Blakeney (2) defends in the first half of an NCAA college basketball game in Baton Rouge, La., Saturday, Jan. 30, 2016. (AP Photo/Bill Feig)
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It’s Tuesday, which means that it is once again time for the NBC Sports Player of the Year Power Rankings.

And you’ll be shocked to find out that Oklahoma guard Buddy Hield is still No. 1 in those rankings. By a pretty wide margin.

The rest of the top 10?

They can be found here, at the CBT FaceBook page. Follow that page for the countdown: