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Quick Takes: Carolina back in the ACC race

Dave2015Rightfully so, most Atlantic Coast Conference (ACC) talk has recently centered around Duke and Virginia.  Quietly, though, North Carolina has reeled off five straight league wins, avenging their only league loss yesterday by rolling Louisville at the KFC Yum! Center.  This morning, the Tar Heels are 7-1 in the ACC and could have the inside track to a conference title.

Here’s why … With the exception of a quick road trip to Duke on February 20, UNC plays its remaining gauntlet games at home: NC State, Virginia, Florida State, and a second match-up with the Blue Devils.  Winning at Clemson is no guarantee, of course, nor is winning a home game against, say, Syracuse.  But if you take a quick glimpse through the schedule book, you can find a path for the Tar Heels to win the regular-season ACC crown.  We probably weren’t thinking that a couple of weeks ago.

Additional Quick Takes:

  • We could say similar things about Purdue.  The Boilermakers have a favorable closing slate in the Big Ten.  Their biggest challenges are likely trips to Maryland and Indiana.  Then again, Purdue needed OT to win at Penn State.
  • Unless Georgetown upsets Villanova on the road today, the Big East will have exactly two teams with better than .500 league records (Villanova, Marquette).
  • St. John’s, Seton Hall, Butler, Creighton, and yes, even Georgetown, can be thankful that the current bubble is as thin as paper.
  • Nebraska’s slide has reached five games after falling at Illinois. That streak also includes a loss to Rutgers.  With Isaac Copeland lost to injury, and a 3-8 Big Ten record in tow, holding onto a spot in the bracket is looking less and less likely.
  • Then again, we could have said the same thing about Indiana until the Hoosiers shocked Michigan State in East Lansing.  So there’s that … and the whole thin bubble picture thing.
  • San Francisco dropped its return date with Saint Mary’s, leaving the Dons’ resume with home wins over SMC and BYU as its best assets.  When factoring in a poor non-conference schedule (No. 283), their at-large hopes are probably on life support without a victory in Spokane against Gonzaga on Thursday.
  • If Florida misses this year’s NCAA tourney, they will look back on second-half leads against Tennessee and Kentucky and wish those advantages hadn’t evaporated late. The Gators are now 1-7 vs. Group 1 opponents.
  • Baylor has won six straight and co-leads the Big 12.  Let that sink in a moment.  What’s ahead isn’t easy … the Bears have Kansas State at home, and play three on the road (Texas, Texas Tech, Iowa State) between now and February 20.
  • LSU lost its first SEC game yesterday, falling to Arkansas at home. Even though the Tigers draw Kentucky and Tennessee only once, their schedule is back-loaded.  It begins with an immediate three-game stretch that includes road trips to Mississippi State and UK, with Auburn in between.

Enjoy your Super Bowl Sunday!  All eyes turn to March tomorrow morning.

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