North Carolina coach Roy Williams reacts during Tar Heels win over Kentucky Dec. 14 (USA Today Sports Images)
It might be time to embrace the possibility that No. 18 North Carolina is a national title contender.
The Tar Heels beat Kentucky 82-77 Saturday giving them victories over the top three teams in the preseason poll this season. North Carolina beat No. 3 Louisville on Nov. 24, No. 1 Michigan State on Dec. 4 and the 11th-ranked Wildcats. Those three teams topped both the Associated Press and USA Today Coaches polls when the season tipped off last month.
But those wins don't tell the whole story. North Carolina has been without two of its best players. P.J. Hairston and Leslie McDonald sat and watched another game Saturday ineligible. What might this team be doing with those guys in the lineup?
Of course, the problem with thinking of the Tar Heels as a national title contender is they will have to get through a small conference opponent or a mid-major at some point in March and they have losses on their record against Belmont and UAB.
Those setbacks combined with the wins leave the Tar Heels looking like a supermodel with a really bad hangover. You know there is something special there but it's hard to see past the damage a couple hard nights have done.
It's hard for anyone who isn't wearing Tar Heels gear to have any faith in this team, because of those confidence-sucking performances, though Saturday's outing was another step in the right direction toward rectifying the problem.
It basically comes down to this. What results do people put more stock in?
The bet here is the wins will resonate more as long as there are no more confounding losses. In fact, those three big wins could carry a lot of weight three months from now.
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