Looking Ahead to the Last Half of the ACC Schedule

Bob Donnan-USA TODAY Sports

At 16-6 and 6-3 in ACC play what the remaining schedule hold for UNC and its NCAA Tournament hopes?

If you looked at the schedule before the start of the season, UNC's present position is probably exactly where most thought it would be. Out of the six losses, the one at Texas stands as the more inexplicable one with the only real complaint being how the Tar Heels have handled games against superior teams(not well for the most part.) In fact, where UNC sits right now is not dissimilar to some past Roy Williams Tar Heels teams of similar(or worse) caliber.

Overall record(22 gms) ACC record(22 gms) Final RS record Final ACC Final record Postseason
2004 15-7 5-6 18-9 8-8 19-11
NCAA 2nd Rd
2006 16-6 7-4 21-6 12-4 23-8 NCAA 2nd Rd
2010 13-9 2-5 16-15 5-11 20-17 NIT Finals

This chart is not intended to compare seasons but rather as a snapshot of where these teams were and where they ended up. Another reason it is not a comparison is previous seasons saw the ACC stronger than it is now. UNC's present 6-3 league mark is a little soft when compared to 2004's 5-6 or 2006's 7-4. Still, it is interesting to note how these seasons closed out. In 2004, UNC went 3-2 after the 22 game mark. In 2006, UNC went 5-0 and 2010 it was 3-6. Those are three fairly disparate closing records and there is a good chance UNC is posting something close to one of those.

The final nine games of UNC's schedule breaks down like this. UNC will play five times away from the Dean Dome and four at home. UNC will play its only game of the season against Clemson, face Duke twice and take on six other teams for a second time with half of those coming on the road, the other half at home. UNC went 3-3 against six of the rematch teams left on the schedule, 2-1 at home and 1-2 on the road.

Using KenPom's win probabilities, here is what we can expect in terms of which games are probable losses, toss-ups or probable wins.

Probable loss(<40% win chance) Toss-up(41-60% win chance) Probable win(>60% win chance)
at Miami(18%) vs Virginia(57%) vs NC State(62%)
at Duke(13%) at Georgia Tech(53%) at Clemson(61%)
vs Duke(32%) at Maryland(42%) vs Florida State(82%)

The best case scenario is UNC finds a way to take both the toss-ups and the probable wins which means UNC would match it's first half record of 6-3 for a 12-6 overall mark. That is not likely. UNC should be able to beat Virginia at home but playing in Atlanta is always difficult as is playing at Maryland. Clemson will be a tough road game but Clemson is also a bad team. That leaves beating Florida State and NC State in Chapel Hill which is completely doable. That would put UNC 4-2 against the two right columns and at 10 wins in ACC play. The problem there is it would be ten wins but with only wins over Virginia and NC State being considered quasi-quality victories and depending on how things go with NC State, it may not even be that when the time comes.

That leaves three games against Duke and Miami. Is it possible, the Heels can at least draw a 1-2 mark in those contests, take care of business against the other six and end the regular season with a 11 win ACC mark? Obviously it will be tough. While UNC did hang with Miami in Chapel Hill, that was without Reggie Johnson and the game Saturday is at Miami. I am not sure, "Miami is due for an ACC loss" is enough to get the Heels over the hump. The game at Duke next Wednesday puts UNC in a very hostile environment which is a circumstances the Heels have wilted in multiple times this season. That would mean UNC's best chance for a top ten win would come when Duke visits Chapel Hill on March 9th. Under Roy Williams, UNC is 7-2 against Duke in the final game of the regular season which includes a 4-0 mark in Chapel Hill. If UNC run that win streak to five while going at least 4-4 against the rest of the schedule, 21-10 would put UNC in a great position for the NCAA Tournament.

Because this team struggles offensively, pretty much any game is a toss-up. In reality there is only one sure fire win on the schedule according to KenPom, versus FSU in Chapel Hill. The rest of leaning heavily towards that 60% barrier which I set for probable wins which is to say the rest of the season could just as easily go the wrong direction should UNC prove to not be up to task in some of the borderline games. Regardless, UNC has won 6 of the last 7. Yes it was a soft run of games but it is undeniable the team is gaining confidence. Assuming the players can develop along the same lines as past Roy Williams' teams, the last half of the ACC slate should work out just fine.

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