Add in a road loss at UAB a week later, followed by a 14-point upset at No. 1 Michigan State 72 hours later, and tattered thesauruses around the sportswriting world were abused yet again in search of words with the same meaning as inconsistent. Words such as unpredictable, erratic and unstable.
Early ACC losses to Wake Forest and Miami all but confirmed the storyline, at least on the national level. Those in close proximity to the program watched as this team developed both individually and as a group in January and February, which resulted in a 12-game winning streak that matched UNC's longest in ACC play since the 1986-87 squad ran the table (14-0).
The grind of conference coverage, however, overshadowed UNC's turnaround to some extent nationally. Sure, the Tar Heels finished the regular season ranked No. 19, but the narrative never changed much.
That was ever so clear at the AT&T Center on Thursday as the sixth-seeded Tar Heels took questions for 30 minutes ahead of Friday's tip against No. 11 seed Providence.
"Are you an inconsistent team?"
James Michael McAdoo answered the question as so many of his teammates have in recent months, acknowledging the up-and-down start to the season and highlighting the chemistry meshing as players became comfortable with their roles and responsibilities.
While the national media appears intent on filing away its entrenched storyline if UNC falls this weekend, the Tar Heels' focus is on proving their conference run was not a fluke.
"I feel like we don't want this season to be defined by a 12-game win streak," McAdoo said.
As UNC moved past its chaotic waves of play that defined the first two months of the season, a lingering issue – its sense of urgency – remained. Due to a lack of offensive options, the Tar Heels' margin of error has been minimal, thereby demanding full effort night-in and night-out.
"You can't really explain it, can't define it, but here it has to be pretty strong as it is one and done now," sophomore forward J.P. Tokoto said. "Every team in the tournament has a chance. I just saw Cincinnati get beat by Harvard, so you can't take anyone lightly. Anything can happen and we have to be ready to play when we step on the court."
Roy Williams posed a question for his team this week in practice to stress that talking point even more.
"How much more do we want to play?"
Lose on Friday and UNC's epilogue will revert back to the narrative penned in November and December. Win, and the Tar Heels will begin writing their own conclusion.