Hoopsbag: North Carolina edition

Each week, I’ll try to answer your queries, comments, raves and rants about North Carolina hoops (and other related issues/teams). Send your interrogatives by visiting this page. You can also email me at bylinerp@gmail.com or contact me via Twitter at @bylinerp.

Halfway through the ACC season, folks ...

Spencer Nielsen from San Francisco, Calif., writes: Hi Robbi. Good to see that Joe [Lunardi] has the Heels in his latest Bracketology. But I don't care about their seeding just yet. I will DEFINITELY care on 2/17 after this next stretch of games vs. Wake Miami, Duke, and UVa. What do you think their record will be by then? The pessimist in me sees them dropping two of those four games. But I know they can do better than that! Just need the whole team to step up and not just 1 guy each game (which has been the frustrating trend from my point of view).

Pickeral: Hi, Spencer. Obviously, you wrote in before the UNC’s win over Wake, so that’s one down. Frankly, I think it’s hard for anyone to win on the road in this ACC this season (except, so far, the Hurricanes), and the Tar Heels face two top-10 teams in Miami and Duke in hostile territory over the next week. Are they capable of pulling an upset? Of course. But everything has got to finally come together: the big guys are going to have to play aggressively; Marcus Paige can’t get rattled; no slow start; James Michael McAdoo, Reggie Bullock and P.J. Hairston all need big games; and hitting some free throws would help.

And looking at the rest of its schedule, Bracketology-wise, UNC can’t really afford not to beat the Cavaliers at home on Feb. 16 (unless it pulls one or two of the aforementioned upsets).

The Tar Heels keep talking about their potential. With nine ACC regular-season games to go, it’s about time to show they can reach it.

Patti from Washington, D.C., writes: Please stop referring to NC State as UNC's rival. The only rival we have is Duke.

Pickeral: But Patti, haven’t you ever heard coach UNC coach Roy Williams say he would rather beat State than eat? Sounds like a rival to me.

David from Hillborough, N.C., writes: Love your stuff. But must take issue with propagating the confusion in the public media, especially sports media, regarding "the flu". I know as a writer it's really easy to describe members of the team suffering from the flu. But there is real flu (influenza), a serious, occasionally fatal, infection that typically will keep a health person down for at least a week and then there is intestinal flu, often call "the 24 hour bug". In fact, that disease is viral gastroenteritis and much has been written on it recently and the family of "Noroviruses" that cause the awful symptomology as described by PJ Hairston. If a group of players actually came down with influenza the outcome will be significant loss of practice/playing time for all and that could be a season changing story. Keep up the great writing on the ACC.

Pickeral: Hi, David. Thanks for the info; it is an important distinction. In this case, the team didn’t go into specifics about which type of flu the players were suffering; we reported what we were told. But it’s a good thing for Hairston (and the team) that it was seemingly only a 24-hour bug.

Jeff from Brentwood, Tenn., writes: Hey, do you think UVA can sneak into the Big Dance this year?

Pickeral: Hey! I was really beginning to think so -- until Virginia's recent loss to Georgia Tech, which pushed it down to 108 in the RPI, according to CollegeRPI.com.

The Cavs, so far, have a confusing résumé. They pulled an upset over then-No. 19 NC State, boast wins over UNC and Florida State -- and yet their three league losses come against foes in the bottom half of the ACC standings: Wake Forest, Clemson and the Yellow Jackets. Same thing during the nonconference season; they got a great win at Wisconsin but lost to three Colonial Athletic Conference teams.

So, yes, Virginia can still sneak in -- but it will probably have to pull another upset or two to have a chance, and it must avoid any more letdowns to teams it is supposed to beat.

Adam from NC: What you think of the Hyper Elite uniforms that Tar Heels will be wearing Saturday?

Pickeral: Eh, I’m ambivalent. Haven’t seen them in person, but at least they’re not silver. Or navy.

And the fact that they are made of sustainable materials is a neat thing.