Seventh-seeded North Carolina will make a final push to land in its 12th straight NCAA Tournament when it faces 10th-seeded Boston College in the second round of the Atlantic Coast Conference tournament on Wednesday in Greensboro, N.C.
The Tar Heels, who opened the season atop the AP poll, were inconsistent throughout the regular season, which they ended with a 62-57 loss to visiting Duke on Saturday.
North Carolina (19-12) needs a deep run in the ACC tournament to boost its chances of making the NCAA Tournament. But Boston College (16-16) likely needs to win the conference tournament to make the field of 68.
“The ACC tournament is definitely huge for us,” said North Carolina forward Armando Bacot, whose team lost in the NCAA title game last season. “We’re just going in there with the mindset: We just gotta go win, really. That’s all we can do.”
While North Carolina received a first-round bye, the Eagles used a second-half surge against 15th-seeded Louisville to overcome the Cardinals’ three-point halftime advantage for an 80-62 win on Tuesday.
Four Eagles finished in double figures, led by Makai Ashton-Langford’s 16 points and five rebounds. Jaeden Zackery added 15 points and eight assists, while Prince Aligbe and Devin McGlockton chipped in 14 and 11 points, respectively.
The Eagles’ performance was even more impressive considering Quinten Post, who averages 15.2 points and 5.7 rebounds per game, was sidelined with a sprained ankle he suffered against Georgia Tech on Saturday. Post, who was recently named ACC Most Improved Player, is a game-time decision against the Tar Heels.
If Post can’t play, Boston College will rely even more on Ashton-Langford (12.2 ppg) and Zackery (10.6 ppg), the only other Eagles with scoring averages in double figures.
North Carolina features a balanced attack featuring Caleb Love (16.7 ppg,), Bacot (16.5 ppg, 10.8 rpg), RJ Davis (15.8 ppg) and Pete Nance (10.1 ppg, 6.0 rpg).
The Tar Heels, who last won the conference tournament in 2016, average 76.5 points per game, considerably more than Boston College’s 66.2. The Eagles are seeking their first ACC tournament crown since joining the league prior to the 2005-2006 season.
“We need to figure out how to slow (the Tar Heels) down because they can score quickly,” Ashton-Langford told ESPN after defeating the Cardinals. “They shoot it from wherever. They take tough shots and they make tough shots.”
North Carolina defeated visiting Boston College 72-64 in the teams’ regular-season meeting on Jan. 17 behind Bacot’s 20 points and 16 rebounds. Davis and Love added 18 and 16 points, respectively.
The Eagles were led by Post’s 17 points and five rebounds, while Zackery finished with 14 points.
–Field Level Media