North Carolina pushes Pittsburgh closer to bubble in walkover win

No. 9 North Carolina rebounded from a rough two-week stretch to pick up an easy, breezy 85-64 win over Pittsburgh.

It was the Tar Heels most dominating performance of the season, as they simply just took control of the game from outset and then ran roughshod over the Panthers. Roy Williams’ group scored 16 points in transition versus the Panthers’ two, scored 24 points off of 19 Panther turnovers, and outmuscled them in the paint to the tune of a 42-22 advantage.

Basically, North Carolina was the more athletic team, they imposed that athleticism on the Panthers, and just exerted their higher talent level over them throughout the entire matchup. Brice Johnson led the way with 19 points, Marcus Paige had 15, and Justin Jackson had 14. There’s not much else to say but that in regards to the game itself.

However, let’s take a quick second and focus on Pittsburgh and its resume. The Panthers are sitting in an awfully precarious spot right now, having lost three in a row and only having won three of their previous nine games. They’re sitting at 17-7 with only a 6-6 mark in the ACC, and both of those records are pretty soft. The Panthers played the 325th-ranked non-conference schedule in the country, and three of their conference wins came against Boston College, Virginia Tech and Georgia Tech at home, whose combined conference record is 8-28.

The Panthers’ three conference wins of note are not to be sneezed at though. They went on the road and beat Notre Dame and Florida State, as well as defeated Syracuse at home. Those three wins are what is holding up their resume right now. None of them elite, but all of them solid. But if those are your only three true wins of note during a 24-game season thus far, it’s pretty tough to say that you’re solidly in the field of 68.

Pittsburgh is a bubble team. That’s just the reality of the situation. Unless the Panthers can get wins against Louisville and Duke in back-to-back games down the stretch or get a few big-time ACC Tournament wins, they’re a pretty soft bubble team at that.

And given what we have seen today and over the last month, it’s clear the Panthers have some work to do — particularly on the defensive end — to build themselves up to the point where they can challenge in games of that magnitude.

Pittsburgh has some work to do down the stretch. (USATSI)
Pittsburgh has some work to do down the stretch. (USATSI)

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