While the Pack picked up a much needed win against Virginia, that win doesn't put them in the field by default. The bubble could still shrink if Long Beach State, St. Louis, California or Memphis lose in their respective conference tournaments over the next two days. There are plenty of scenarios where the Pack doesn't see its name called on Selection Sunday – the last thing the Pack wants to show the committee is a blowout loss to North Carolina today.
But now that the Pack is into the weekend of the tournament the focus is more on winning the whole thing as opposed to fighting for an NCAA tournament spot. The Pack hasn't been to the ACC championship game since 2007, when it lost to Carolina in Sidney Lowe's first season as head coach.
"The main thing for me is if we can scratch and claw and win this tournament I don't have to worry about anybody voting and judging us," Scott Wood said.
Defensive Player of the Year John Henson may not play against the Pack. Henson fell hard on his left wrist during Friday's game with Maryland and didn't return. The team said after the game that Henson had not broken his wrist, but his status for Saturday was still up in the air. It seems unlikely that Roy Williams will risk further injury by allowing him to play.
"He's just a great player and that will be big for us if he doesn't play," CJ Williams said. "But we can't worry about that we have to go and gameplan for whether he plays or not."
Without Henson, the Pack could actually have the advantage in the front court of both CJ Leslie and Richard Howell can stay on the floor. Both have gotten into foul trouble against Carolina, but both played well with early fouls against Virginia on Friday afternoon – remaining productive and aggressive.
The Pack needs another stellar performance by Leslie, who has played exceptional basketball over the last month and is the main reason the Pack snapped out of its four-game losing streak in late February. Leslie was a ridiculously efficient 9-of-11 against Virginia's defense and will need to be just as aggressive against the Heels.
"Coach has done an amazing job with me in keeping me in the game and telling me I can do it and sticking with me through all the tough times I had," Leslie said. "I couldn't have done it on my own."
The fate of the Pack might just hing on the play of its two shooters – Williams and Scott Wood. Williams has been mired in a slump of late, while Wood had a nice string of games going before a fairly quiet outing against Virginia. The Pack needs its shooters to do better than the combined 5-for-14 they shot against the Cavaliers. For Williams there's added incentive as he thought he'd finish his career without ever beating Carolina but now has one last shot in the tournament.
Kendall Marshall will provide a unique challenge for the Pack, as he's now shot the ball well in three of his last five games and made the Pack pay for leaving him open in Raleigh. Williams wasn't sure how the Pack would choose to defend him, but acknowledged they probably won't help off as much as they did when Marshall scored a career-high 22 points against the Pack.
"He's playing really good right now," Williams said. "His passing ability makes it tough, and now that he's shooting the ball well – now you have to guard him both for the passes and the shooting."
Williams isn't worried about fatigue setting for the Pack, who will play their third straight game while North Carolina will be going for just the second straight day because of the first-round bye.
"We've worked all summer for this." Williams said. "We were out in the hot sun over the summer running and getting into shape. We are going to rest and get our legs ready for tomorrow and come out and play with intensity."