Looking at UNC's ACC Tournament Seed Possibilities

Grant Halverson

With four games left on UNC's schedule the Tar Heels are essentially tied for third in the standings. However a lot can happen over the final two weeks of the season which could place UNC anywhere from #2 to #6 or worse. Before diving into the potential scenarios here is what the ACC tiebreaker rules looks like.

I. When two teams are tied in the standings, regular season head-to-head results are used as the tiebreaker.

II. If the two tied teams split their regular season games, the tie is broken by comparing each team’s records against the team occupying the highest position in the standings, and then continuing down until one team gains an advantage.

III. If three or more teams are tied, the combined record of each team against the other two teams involved is used to break the tie. After this procedure, if two teams remain tied, procedure (2) is followed.

IV. If procedures (2) and/or (3) fail to establish an advantage, a coin flip to break the tie will be conducted by the commissioner after the final regular season game before the Conference Championship.

#1 seed

Not happening as in UNC has been eliminated from contention for the #1 seed. Virginia presently sits atop the ACC at 14-1. Even if the Cavaliers lost their remaining three games and UNC won its remaining four, it would put both teams in a tie and Virginia owns the tiebreaker. If there is a three way tie between UNC, Virginia and Syracuse, UNC is 0-2 vs the group and dropped to #3. Syracuse would be #1 since for such a tie to occur the Orange would need to beat Virginia then lose two other games. A four way tie that includes Duke since the UNC-Duke game in March would eliminate one of those two teams.

#2 seed

The #2 seed is possible but it will require a complete collapse by Syracuse down the stretch and UNC winning out. The Orange own the tiebreaker over the Tar Heels so for UNC to pass Syracuse, the Orange would need to lose three of the remaining four games on their schedule and UNC would need to win out. That would put UNC at 14-4 and Syracuse would be 13-5 giving the edge to the Tar Heels. This scenario seems unlikely except to note that Syracuse plays three of their last four games on the road. UNC's biggest obstacles to making this happen are winning at NC State and Duke.

#3 seed

This is the simplest scenario for UNC. If the Heels win out they can clinch the #3 seed without any help from another team. Winning out puts UNC at 14-4 and since the Heels close the regular season with the Blue Devils that game could very well be for the #3 seed.

#4 seed

This will be the most likely scenario since all that is required for the Heels to end up at #4 is beat NC State, Virginia Tech and Notre Dame. A loss at Duke wouldn't impact UNC's ending up the fourth seed because the Heels own the tiebreaker with Pitt should both teams finish at 13-5 in ACC play.  For the record, this is exactly what KenPom is predicting for UNC at this point. The Tar Heels have win probabilities of 62% against NC State, 84% against Virginia Tech, 88% against Notre Dame and 22% versus Duke. If those hold UNC will run the current win streak to 12 games before falling in Durham and finishing 13-5 in the ACC.

UPDATE: With Pitt's loss to FSU, UNC is a full two games clear of both the Panthers and Clemson and owns tiebreakers against both. That means UNC can go 2-2 and still finish in fourth and get a Thursday bye. Considering UNC has a game at Virginia Tech and Notre Dame at home on Senior Night, the chances are really good the Heels can lock in at least fourth place.

#5 seed

If UNC goes 2-2 over the final four games and Pitt wins out, UNC would be the #5 seed. A 2-2 mark to close the season would put the Heels at 12-6 in the ACC and one game behind 13-5 Pitt. If Clemson also wins out then UNC and Clemson would be tied for 5th but the Tar Heels would receive the #5 seed since they won the only game between the two teams.

#6 seed

While it shouldn't get to this point, it is still a possibility. If the Heels lose three of their last four games and Clemson wins out, UNC would fall to sixth. At 11-7 there is a chance UNC ends up tied with Maryland or NC State though that would require each of them winning out and that is unlikely. Even if they did UNC would own the tiebreakers against both those teams.

Any other scenarios involve UNC losing four straight games to close the season and at that point there will be much bigger concerns than the ACC Tournament seed. Falling to 10-8 in ACC play and 20-11 overall could make UNC a tad bubbly in the eyes of some though at this stage the Tar Heels should still be a lock. And even in a worst case scenario, UNC would not slip past the #8 seed in the ACC Tournament but would have to play on Thursday.

Ultimately UNC's goal is to get the double-bye and start ACC Tournament play on Friday. The #3 seed would be nice since it would likely mean avoiding Pittsburgh in the quarterfinals versus either Clemson or Maryland.  Beyond that, the seeding really doesn't matter. To win the ACC title, UNC will likely have to beat two of Duke, Virginia or Syracuse whether the Heels are the #2, #3 or #4 seed. All that matters is avoiding Thursday round which can be done by finishing at least 3-1 down the stretch

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