Tar Heels, Cardinals have work to do

Updated: January 10, 2014, 5:30 PM ET
By Dick Vitale |

Louisville and North Carolina are two big-name programs looking to get back on the right track.

The Cardinals were looking for a quality win at home Thursday night. They did not get it, falling short against American Athletic foe Memphis. It was a great victory for Josh Pastner's squad, who went on a key, 7-0 run to end the game.

Russ Smith and Luke Hancock showed their scoring prowess, but it was not enough. It seems to me that Louisville really misses the defensive presence of Gorgui Dieng, who was so vital as a shot-blocking threat on last season's national championship team.

[+] EnlargeMarcus Paige
Mark L. Baer/USA TODAY SportsMarcus Paige came up big in North Carolina's wins over Louisville and Kentucky. The Tar Heels will need more of the same to beat Syracuse.

From here on out, the Cardinals do not have many opportunities to gain that signature win to impress the NCAA selection committee. The best candidates left on their schedule include a rematch at Memphis, and home and away games against Connecticut and Cincinnati.

I believe the Cardinals will be dancing, but their seed may not be that high, based on their resume.

While the Cardinals go back to the drawing board, I look forward to seeing North Carolina at Syracuse on Saturday. The Orange have been impressive in going undefeated. Tyler Ennis has joined the big four -- Jabari Parker, Andrew Wiggins, Julius Randle and Aaron Gordon -- in the discussion of the premier diaper dandies in America. Ennis has 34 assists and just seven turnovers in his last five games.

The big question on Saturday is which Tar Heels team will show up? North Carolina has impressive wins over Michigan State, Kentucky and Louisville. On the flip side, their five defeats so far have come against Belmont, UAB, Texas, Wake Forest and Miami.

The Tar Heels are trying to avoid their first 0-3 ACC start since 1996-97 under the legendary Michelangelo, Dean Smith.

One key for North Carolina will be free throw shooting. In the five defeats, the Tar Heels have shot about 50 percent from the line.

Roy Williams will also need a strong showing from Marcus Paige, who has been lost in struggle city lately. He shot 2-of-15 from the field in the team's last loss, to Miami at home.

Dick Vitale

College Basketball analyst
Dick Vitale, college basketball's top analyst and ambassador, joined ESPN during the 1979-80 season. His thorough knowledge of the game is brought forth in an enthusiastic, passionate style. Vitale also contributes columns to



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