North Carolina is now 16-2 and right in the thick of the conversation for the nation’s best teams because the Tar Heels are fully healthy again and getting serious contributions for one of their best players, Kennedy Meeks.
UNC got a nice fight from in-state foe NC State on Saturday afternoon in Chapel Hill, North Carolina but Roy Williams’ team got the 67-55 win, which means the Heels will remain a top-five team in the polls come Monday.
The reason for the win was mostly Meeks, who had 23 points, was 10-for-16 from the field, added six rebounds and had three blocks. Eighteen of Meeks’ points came in the final 20 minutes. UNC is now 5-0 in the ACC and has to be considered the clear-cut favorite in the league at this point; it’s the only undefeated team left in league play.
Heels fans will recall last year’s letdown, when UNC was stumbling for the better part of a month in conference play — then got dropped by 12 points at home to the Wolfpack. If Meeks — who had a slight hobble at the end of the game; perhaps it was the knee issue creeping back — can stay healthy, and Brice Johnson (just six points and two boards on Saturday) can continue to be player of the year-worthy, then yeah, this is the league’s best.
Marcus Paige was also unusually quiet in Saturday’s game. The Tar Heels don’t have all the pieces in place, but when you go most of the season without a full roster available, it’s going to take some time. To be 5-0 in the ACC with very winnable games upcoming that can get you to 8-0 (Wake Forest, Virginia Tech, Boston College), then the league is very much yours for the taking.
NC State now finds itself in an awful hole. Thought to be an NCAA Tournament team in the preseason, the Wolfpack are now 0-5 in the ACC and 10-8 overall. And 10-10 could be in the future, as a road game against Pittsburgh and a home game against Duke are next up on the slate for Mark Gottfried’s club.