CHAPEL HILL, NC - MARCH 05: Tyler Thornton #3 of the Duke Blue Devils goes after a rebound with John Henson #31 of the North Carolina Tar Heels during their game at the Dean E. Smith Center on March 5, 2011 in Chapel Hill, North Carolina. (Photo by Streeter Lecka/Getty Images)
Roy Williams famously has little use for the ACC Tournament. Sure, he'll try to win it every year, and a 9-5 record with two titles is a decent showing, but it's not that important to him. Heck, Wednesday found him in Iowa on a recruiting trip.
This year's trip to Greensboro might have a little more of his attention, however, because the parity in basketball means UNC's seed in the NCAAs can fluctuate wildly based on this weekend. I hadn't been giving it much thought – see my numerous unhinged rants on bracketology – until I saw Notre Dame being predicted as a number one seed after beating Connecticut. "Notre Dame?" I thought. "They're no better than Carolina, and no one thinks they're a number one seed." It turns out I was right about the former and wrong about the latter; people have been kicking around UNC as a top seed. Now I don't think either the Irish or the Tar Heels will end up on that line, but there's a number of ways this could shake out.
Let's start with the number one seeds. Ohio State and Kansas are mortal locks, no matter what happens in their various tournaments. They'll play opening rounds in Cleveland and Tulsa, respectively. Kansas will get the Southwest Regional in San Antonio, and to be honest I'm unsure of where the Buckeyes will end up – Newark and the East, presumably. Pittsburgh and Duke are still the odds on favorites for the other two spots, but Pittsburgh's RPI is falling and their Thursday loss didn't help. They're still the best team in the northeast , and will probably get the other spot in Cleveland. Duke has a high RPI, but if they fail to win the ACC Tournament – especially to UNC – the committee will have to ask themselves how they can seed the Blue Devils over a Carolina team that's beaten them twice in nine days.
The most likely outcome in that case is both ACC teams are 2 seeds, and where they end up regional-wise depends on who the eventual one seeds are. There's a small group of teams who could slip in with a conference tournament victory, including Purdue, Brigham Young, Notre Dame, and maybe, if a lot of things fall just the right way, San Diego State. Root for a western team to succeed if you thing UNC is cutting down the nets in Greensboro. That'll make them the first two seed (or possibly the last one seed) and put them in the Southeast regional and New Orleans. If you think Duke is taking home the hardware, hope for Purdue or Notre Dame, which will send the Blue Devils out west as the top two seed and keep UNC in the southeast again. Either way, both schools are almost certainly playing their first round games in Charlotte.
If the ACC tournament goes particularly poorly – a loss to Miami, say – a third seed becomes a possibility. A lot of people have UNC as a third seed now, but I'm not really enamored with logic that has Florida as a higher seed than the Heels. That still means most likely a Charlotte first round game, as the southeast is pretty bereft of solid basketball teams. Although if you stuff enough Big East teams above them, I suppose they could be shipped to Tampa. Even this isn't a huge blow for the Heels. They'll still be, because of a S-seeding, most likely in the East Regional, which will get the large New York fanbase out. From there it falls to which teams are placed in the higher seeds of the brackets, speculation I won't even try to get into.
As for the rest of the ACC, they're all stuck in the land of middling seeds, but the two teams in the biggest danger of missing the tournament, Boston College and Virginia Tech, both won their Thursday games. There are also a lot more schools seeming playing themselves out of contention rather than in it. With all of that, they'll probably be in, most likely in double-digit seeds. Florida State could go higher though, with Chris Singleton's return and a good performance in Greensboro.
In the end, it's all comes down to whatever a committee in a bad conference room overflowing with empty soda cans thinks. UNC can only win as much as they can and see where the chips fall. They've put themselves in a good situation, and the tournament sites are favorable without one being so important as to jockey for, so there's no cause for concern. Sit back, enjoy the ACC tournament, and leave Selection Sunday to Sunday. There's basketball on.