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December 29, 2008

Monday tip: Can an ACC team beat UNC?

Entering the season, North Carolina was the consensus pick to finish the season ranked No. 1.

Numerous observers also talked about the possibility of the Tar Heels becoming the first team since Indiana in 1976 to finish unbeaten. So far, so good for the Heels. They're off to a 12-0 start and have beaten Kentucky, Michigan State and Notre Dame by a combined 69 points.

The rest of the non-conference schedule consists of Nevada and College of Charleston, which means if the Heels are to lose, it will be to an ACC foe.

So, can an ACC team hand North Carolina a loss? We asked basketball writers Mike Huguenin and Jason King what they thought, and here are their responses.

MIKE HUGUENIN: No.

Yes, I know how hard it is for any team much less one in the storied ACC to finish a regular season unbeaten. But if any team can do it, it's this season's Tar Heels.

It's sheer folly to think the Tar Heels will lose at home, so a loss if it happens is going to come on the road. Three times, the Heels play back-to-back road conference games but each game is at least three days apart.

The short trip to Durham on Feb. 11 is the obvious choice for "opposing venue UNC is most likely to lose in," but a Jan. 28 trip to Florida State and a March 4 trip to Virginia Tech might be more troublesome. UNC always seems to have trouble in Tallahassee, and Virginia Tech could be in a position in early March where it needs a marquee win to strengthen its NCAA tournament resume. And nothing would strengthen a resume this season like a victory over North Carolina.

Still, the thought here is that with a chance to make history, the Heels get through the ACC schedule unscathed in the regular season, at least.

JASON KING: Yes.

North Carolina coach Roy Williams rolls his eyes whenever someone broaches the topic of an undefeated season, and rightfully so.

No matter how good a team may be − and let's face it, these Tar Heels are downright scary it's nearly impossible to finish the regular season with a spotless record. No school has accomplished the feat since UNLV did it in 1990-91, and North Carolina won't, either.

For all of its shortcomings in football this past season, the ACC is once again strong in basketball. Don't be surprised if Kyle Singler and the Duke Blue Devils knock off the Tar Heels in Durham. Wake Forest has enough good athletes to beat North Carolina on an off-night. The dark horse, though, may be Clemson, which will be high on confidence after almost beating North Carolina twice last season. Oliver Purnell's squad is one of the most underrated in the country. It wouldn't surprise me to see the Tigers topple the Tar Heels.

Still, even with a loss, North Carolina would remain the top team in the country. No one else is even close.

Mike Huguenin is the college sports editor for Rivals.com. He can be reached at mhuguenin@rivals.com.
Jason King is a college basketball writer for Rivals.com and Yahoo! Sports. Send Jason a question or comment for potential use in a future column or webcast.



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