Despite an upset loss at the hands of the Michigan Wolverines on Thursday, the No. 6 North Carolina Tar Heels will still leave the Battle 4 Atlantis as one of the elite teams in the nation.
North Carolina's slim victory over the No. 11 Oregon Ducks still establishes them as an early powerhouse, and the Heels proved they can handle a significant challenge ahead of an utterly brutal December, schedule-wise.
Though it was for third place, the 78-74 Tar Heels win still came against the third-highest nationally ranked team in the Battle 4 Atlantis Tournament. UNC topped an Oregon team that came back from 19 down Wednesday night to knock off a tough No. 13 Seton Hall Pirates team, then came close to upsetting No. 8 Gonzaga Thursday. This Oregon team doesn't quit, and Carolina hadn't shown the capability to get key buckets yet through their first six contests. To put up such a prime showing with most of the roster hobbled means plenty so early in the season.
Perhaps most significantly, the Tar Heels dominated from the free throw line.
UNC made 20 of its 21 tries from the foul line, a remarkable 95.2%. Meanwhile, Oregon struggled, shooting just 12-of-20 from the line, a weak 60%.
UNC's stars also came to play. Though probably the most feared Tar Heel, Cole Anthony was not the best player on the floor despite scoring 19 points. Rather, freshman Armando Bacot dominated with yet another double-double, this one for game-highs in both points (23) and rebounds (12).
The Tar Heels also limited highly-touted junior college recruit Shakar Juiston to just three points. UNC might not have won the Battle 4 Atlantis, but they will return to the U.S. a better team.