North Carolina played a combined six regular-season games against the five teams directly beneath it in the ACC standings – a fact that led to the kind-of-question Tar Heels coach Roy Williams received on Thursday.
He met with reporters after UNC’s 88-71 victory against Pittsburgh in the ACC tournament quarterfinals. Someone brought up the Tar Heels’ schedule and asked Williams whether he thought the ease of it – playing some of the ACC’s best teams only once – contributed to UNC’s success.
Williams response: “That’s a bunch of horse ----.”
Clearly, Williams was in no mood to entertain the thought that UNC had it easy.
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“In the ACC you get to play everybody, some of them two (times), some of them one,” Williams said. “For the past couple years, I’ve always said the greatest thing would be to play everybody twice. But we don’t do that.”
UNC played twice against Duke. The Tar Heels always do, after all, since Duke is one of UNC’s permanent partners in basketball. UNC’s other partner is N.C. State.
Which leaves room on the schedule to play twice against two other schools. This season those schools were Syracuse (9-9) and Boston College (0-18). Undoubtedly, the Eagles’ troubles contributed to the perception that UNC got off with an easier schedule.
Williams raised an interesting point on Thursday, though: UNC represents a difficult game for any of its opponents. And the Tar Heels, of course, don’t get to play themselves. Another one of Williams’ arguments: His team played only road games against Virginia, Louisville and Notre Dame.
Those were three of the best teams in the league, and UNC lost all three of those road games. None of teams, though, visited the Smith Center.
“Would you agree that Louisville would probably make the (NCAA) tournament? We played at Louisville,” Williams said, speaking of a Louisville team that self-imposed a postseason ban. “Would you agree that Notre Dame is going to make the tournament? We played at Notre Dame.
“Would you agree that Virginia is going to make the tournament? We played at Virginia. Would you agree that Duke is going to make the tournament? We played them twice.”
After talking for a while longer Williams smiled and said, “Did I solve that one?”
Probably not. The criticism of UNC’s schedule will endure. The Tar Heels can quell some of it with a victory against Notre Dame on Friday in the ACC tournament semifinals.