Hubert Davis and the UNC basketball program will look to earn a berth in the Phil Knight Invitational Finals by beating Iowa State.

After a Thanksgiving win over Portland, the UNC basketball program has a quick turnaround as it will face Iowa State in the semifinals of the Phil Knight Invitational.

The Pilots certainly gave the Tar Heels a fight for their bucks as the game was much closer than the eight points that separated the two teams last buzzer. Although everyone seems panicked about the state of the UNC basketball program in five games, it’s important to remember this very important factor:

It’s November.

Last time I checked, champions aren’t crowned in November. Having just celebrated Thanksgiving, Tar Heels fans should be thankful that North Carolina, despite their struggles, has won every one of their last five games.

Now of course we want to see the Tar Heels play a full 40 minute competition. As the competition gets tougher, they need to be more intense as they are on the verge of getting angry if they continue to play at the level of their opponents.

Can the Tar Heels secure a spot in the PKI Finals? Here’s what they need to do to make it happen.

Key to victory for North Carolina

Aside from their Thanksgiving overtime win over Villanova, Iowa State has dominated its other three opponents. However, they haven’t shot the ball well from deep as a team and have only clipped 27.4 percent so far this season.

However, this unit consists of four players who have shot over 33 percent so far this season, so they have some very capable shooters on the ground.

Needless to say, the Tar Heels need to get better defensively, especially in terms of closing shooters. Portland was an extremely good three-point shooting team and saw a lot of open looks. North Carolina needs to keep up the intensity on the defensive side of the floor as it’s something that could hurt the Tar Heels in this matchup if they don’t.

Additionally, the UNC basketball program needs to get Armando Bacot going early. This group is a much better unit when he’s involved early and often.

Something to look at

Two things to monitor in this case.

Leaky Black continues to do Leaky Black stuff as he is often paired with the opposing team’s best offensive weapon. It’s likely the fifth-grader will be tasked with slowing down Jaren Holmes, who leads the Cyclones at 16.8 points per game.

Iowa State currently has 9 players who average more than 12 minutes per competition. As we know, Hubert Davis relied heavily on a short rotation of players.

How will Davis handle the rotation as he plays back-to-back days for the first time this season, and can the Tar Heels pull some much-needed production from their reserves?

Planned starters

#4 RJ Davis (Jr., 6-0, 175) – 15.2 ppg, 4.4 rpg, 3.4 apg
#2 Caleb Love (Jr., 6-4, 200) – 18.8 ppg, 5.0 rpg, 3.4 apg
#1 Leaky Black (Gr., 6-9 205) – 9.0 ppg, 7.4 rpg, 1.2 apg
#32 Pete Nance (Gr. 6-11, 230) – 14.0 ppg, 4.0 rpg, 1.8 apg
#5 Armando Bacot (Sr., 6-11, 235) – 16.8 ppg, 12.0 rpg, 1.2 bpg

what you need to know

WHAT? North Carolina Tar Heels (5-0) vs. Iowa State Cyclones (4-0)
IF? Friday, November 22, 2022 at 5:30 p.m. EST
WHERE? Veterans Memorial Coliseum in Portland, Oregon
RADIO? Tar Heels Sports Network
LAST MEETING? On March 23, 2014, Iowa State defeated North Carolina 85-83
ALL TIME SERIES? Iowa State leads the series 1-0
FORECAST? UNC 84, State of Iowa 79