Ugh. The fact is, this is a team that has been shredded by personnel loss. The missing players aren't injured or on the bench; they left college eligibility years on the table to play in the NBA, or they are playing for other Division 1 schools: Henson, Marshall, Barnes, Drew, Ware(s)...
As a result, we have one (Bullock), or perhaps two (Strickland) players in possession of the skills and experience expected from Tar Heel starters, and one similarly traditional Tar Heel sixth man (Hairston). Everyone else who starts would otherwise be on the bench, and some of these people with scholarships would have to have been a walk-on to don the Carolina blues.
But, we would only have our full team if people valued completing their college eligibility over playing in the NBA, and there's an unspoken maxim that this is a foolish thing to do. In and out of sports, college is seen as a tool for leverage, a means to gain visibility, and one only completes a course of study if that is required to move on to their next goal. That problem is larger than college basketball, and it deserves it's own discussion.
So, after an utterly humiliating home loss to a Miami team (which itself played poorly), the team decided in Tallahassee that they simply were not going to lose another game, and they didn't. To be fair, FSU only stayed in it because they had a streak of ridiculous three-point shots (the 'Noles still have work to do to make it to the post-season themselves), but the Tar Heels played with hustle and guts. MacAdoo, James and Paige all played hard, just like Tyler Hansbrough used to play in every single possession at both ends of the court. This effort alone won't be enough to beat Duke, they are also going to have to shoot better, move the ball better, play transition better, but if they can continue to get rebounds like they did in this game, particularly on offense, they can get some Tournament experience this year.
But, that story is yet to be told. Will the FSU game be the start of something new, or the shining moment to which we cling to while rationalizing caring about the NIT? We'll see. I really don't know.