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Beyond the Scoreboard: Suddenly struggling Tar Heels head to Virginia

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North Carolina's Joel Berry shoots and makes a three pointer over Florida State's CJ Walker to move within one point in the final seconds of the second half of an NCAA college basketball game, Wednesday, Jan. 3, 2018, in Tallahassee, Fla. Florida State won 81-80. (AP Photo/Steve Cannon)

After a strong 11-1 start to the season, the North Carolina basketball team has looked vulnerable the last couple of weeks.

An inexplicable home loss to Wofford, trailing an average Wake Forest team by four points late in the ACC opener at home before rallying for a win, and the defensive collapse that allowed No. 24 Florida State to take an 81-80 win on Wednesday.

And it doesn’t get any easier for the 12th-ranked Tar Heels (12-3, 1-1), who play at No. 8 Virginia (13-1, 2-0) in a 1 p.m. start on ESPN.

The Cavaliers’ home has been a den of horrors for UNC, which has lost in its last four trips there and hasn’t won in Charlottesville since 2012. Last year’s loss was particularly ugly as the offense managed just 43 points.

As usual, coach Tony Bennett’s defense is among the best in the country, holding 10 teams to 55 points or less.

But don’t fret, Tar Heel fans – a softer schedule awaits. Three of the next four games are at home (Boston College, Clemson and Georgia Tech) and the road trip is to Notre Dame, which is missing Preseason ACC Player of the Year Bonzie Colson (foot injury, out for 6-8 weeks). Virginia by 5.

No. 2 Duke (13-1, 1-1) at N.C. State (10-5, 0-2), 8 p.m., ESPN – Duke freshman center Marvin Bagley III has staked an early claim as the league’s top player, leading the conference in scoring (21.9), rebounding (11.6) and double-doubles (11).

Enjoy the one-year rental, Coach K.

The Wolfpack have gotten smoked in road losses at Clemson and Notre Dame, amid this brutal assessment from new coach Kevin Keatts.

“We are not as talented as most teams in the ACC.”

Ouch - the truth hurts. Duke by 6.

Wake Forest (8-6, 1-1) at Boston College (10-5, 1-2), 4 p.m. on Fox Sports South - Since the death of Skip Prosser in 2007, a once-strong Demon Deacons program has struggled under coaches Dino Gaudio and Jeff Bzdelik.

The recent six-year contract extension for Danny Manning suggests Wake believes he is the guy, but his resume with the program (51-57, 17-39 in the ACC) offers evidence otherwise.

Last year’s 19-9 team reached the NCAA tournament and offered hope, but this year’s squad is trying to bounce back from an 0-3 start that included losses to Georgia Southern and Liberty.

If Manning is the answer, you have to wonder, what’s the question? Boston College by 4.

Louisville (11-3, 1-0) at No. 25 Clemson (13-1, 2-0), noon on WLOS/Ch. 13 - Are the Tigers for real? A strong start to the conference schedule includes wins against N.C. State and at Boston College.

This may be the year that saves coach Brad Brownell’s job as he tries to get Clemson back to the NCAA tournament for the first time since 2011, his first year with the program.

The Cardinals have won seven of eight under new coach David Padgett, but that loss was a national-TV undressing by Kentucky, 90-61. Clemson by 1.

Western Carolina (2-0, 6-8) at Samford (5-9, 1-0), 8 p.m. on ESPN3 – What could have been a big negative (three straight road gamed to open the Southern Conference season) has become a positive for the Catamounts (wins at The Citadel and Chattanooga, where the program has been 3-36).

Now, after a 3-7 start, coach Larry Hunter’s squad goes after its fourth win in five games. Samford is also bouncing back, winning three of four after a 2-8 start. Samford by 8.

UNC Asheville (8-7, 1-1) at Radford (9-6, 2-0), 4 p.m. on Big South Network – The Bulldogs have been the Big South Conference’s best team over a decade, but have struggled at Radford.

Asheville has lost overtime games on the road vs. the Highlanders each of the past two seasons.

The Bulldogs are coming off a lost at High Point on Wednesday night, while Radford has won four straight. Radford by 3.

Last week and for the season: 5-1 overall, 2-4 against the spread.

Care to comment? Contact at keithjarrettasheville@gmail.com

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