As I was perusing the ACC standings in preparing to cast my vote for the ACC Power Poll over at Thee Sports Blog, an interesting factoid came to light. Of Carolina's first 10 ACC games, only 3 have been against teams that currently have a losing record in conference play, and only 2 games - both against NC State, have been against the lower third of the conference. This means, ostensibly, that the remainder of UNC's schedule (with the exception of games at Wake Forest and at Duke) should be marginally easier than what the Heels have faced thus far. This also means that, at 14-11 and 3-7 in the ACC, that Carolina is still mathematically alive for an NCAA tournament berth, as crazy as that may sound.
If UNC can win its last six games, they will finish with 20 wins, 9-7 in the ACC, and will have won at Duke and Wake to go with wins over Ohio State and Michigan State - at that point they would be a no-brainer for the NCAA tournament. Even if UNC could somehow go 5-1 over its last six, to finish at 8-8 in the conference after a 2-7 start, the Heels are at least even money to make the NCAA field.
But a surprisingly realistic goal, given UNC's last six opponents, is go 4-2 down the stretch, finish 7-9 in the league, 18-13 overall, and put themselves squarely on the bubble. For this to happen, Carolina would have to win games against Florida State (6-5 ACC, #7 in the standings); Georgia Tech (5-6, #8); Miami (3-8, #10) ; and Boston College (3-8, #11). This is not a Herculean task, even given the team's erratic play this season.
Now before you go blowing up the comments section, please understand I have seen nothing since the calendar turned 2010 that suggests this UNC squad can pull this off. Four of the last six are on the road, and even good Carolina teams have turned to mush in Atlanta, Chestnut Hill, and Winston-Salem. But hopefully it gives the team something to shoot for when they hit the practice floor this week. Either way, we'll know by Tuesday night at 11:30 if this is even a possibility...