This has not been your typical season for the North Carolina Tar Heels. A while back, this team was an afterthought when some bracketologists began making their analysis of the tournament field. Now, North Carolina has starting the process to solidify their position in the NCAA Tournament.
In only a week’s time, the Tar Heels have won critical games that are a part of the bigger picture. On a four-game winning streak, they are now on the radar as contenders in the competitive Atlantic Coast Conference. More importantly, the Tar Heels are now on the minds of people making decisions on who will be in the NCAA Tournament.
North Carolina owns two key victories that will be factors in the eyes of the selection committee when it comes time for Selection Monday. Last week, the Tar Heels upset then-No. 1 Notre Dame. Next, they would upset then-No. 7 and undefeated North Carolina State on February 4.
Ultimately, North Carolina has made it easy for the selection committee. That is if they were going off the play of the team in the past week.
One player who has been key in this run by the Tar Heels is Paris Kea. The 5-foot-9 redshirt senior is averaging 22 points, 6.3 assists, 3 rebounds, and 1.6 steals over this week stretch. After the win of Notre Dame, Fighting Irish head coach Muffet McGraw was able to notice how brilliant Kea was in the game.
“She was the best player of the floor,” McGraw stated after the game. “We had no answer for her. Just couldn’t guard her from anywhere – couldn’t contain her, couldn’t guard her off the 3-point line. It was really disappointing to see our defense collapse like that.”
In the same fashion, Janelle Bailey has been the force for the Tar Heels with Kea. The 6-foot-4 sophomore is putting up 17.3 points, 9 rebounds, 1.3 steals and 0.6 blocks per game in this week span. Above all, she was able to hold her own against some stiff competition inside against players such as Brianna Turner and Jessica Shepard.
The Tar Heels are now 5-4 in ACC play with games against Duke and Clemson coming up. Russell Steinberg of High Post Hoops has North Carolina as either a No. 9 seed in the tournament (as of February 6). Charlie Crème of ESPN has the Tar Heels as a No. 8 seed (as of February 4).
With the meat of the ACC schedule behind them, look for coach Sylvia Hatchell to keep the North Carolina Tar Heels marching on.
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