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Weekend Stakes

Besides the need to beat Duke, what else is on the line for UNC this weekend?


Obviously, the game Saturday night is first and foremost about beating Duke. The Heels lost a tough game in Durham and Roy Williams is 7-2 in the second regular season game versus the Blue Devils regardless of venue. The Heels continue to play at their best towards the end of the season and traditionally that play is a reason why this regular season finale versus Duke often goes UNC's way.

Beyond that there is some ACC Tournament seeding business that needs to be addressed. In most years, this game is about winning the ACC Regular season. That won't be the case this season but the Heels can position themselves for next weekend in Greensboro. Here are the two ACC Tournament seeding scenarios for UNC.

1. UNC gets the #3 seed in the ACC Tournament with a win over Duke or an NC State loss to FSU. With a win UNC would finish tied for 2nd with Duke but lose the tiebreaker because Duke was 1-1 versus first place Miami and UNC was 0-2. If both UNC and NC State lose, UNC finishes 3rd outright, one game ahead of the Wolfpack.

2. UNC gets the #4 seed in the ACC Tournament with a loss to Duke and an NC State win over FSU. UNC and NC State would be tied for third but since UNC would have gone 0-2 versus Duke and NC State went 1-1, the Wolfpack get the higher seed.

Basically, UNC controls its own destiny in this regard but could still get some help from FSU. Since that game will be played earlier on Saturday, UNC's seed situation will be clear when the Tar Heels tip against Duke a little past 9 PM.

In addition to where UNC could end up there is the matter of how the #5 and #6 seeds play out. Whoever ends up in those slots could face the Heels next Friday. Virginia presently has at least the #5 seed locked up but could move up to #4 if NC State loses to FSU and the Cavaliers beat Maryland. If NC State wins at FSU or UVa loses to Maryland, Virginia is the #5 seed.

The #6 seed will be either FSU or Maryland. Presently, FSU and Maryland are both 8-9 in ACC play with the Seminoles holding the tiebreaker over the Terps via a sweep of the regular season series. So an FSU win or Maryland loss gives the #6 seed to the Noles. Maryland needs to beat Virginia and have FSU lose to NC State to get the #6 seed.

As for the NCAA Tournament, UNC should be safely in as an at-large team and is now playing to improve its seeding. Based on the plethora of mock brackets out there UNC is currently a #8 seed on average. That wouldn't necessarily be a bad thing since the Heels would almost surely draw the weakest #1 seed. However, a win over Duke would give them a bump. If the Heels follow-up with a nice ACC Tournament run, they will move up a few notches. In fact, UNC's RPI of 20 should put them at a higher seed position but there is the issue of the Heels' 2-6 mark against the RPI top 50. Never mind, four of those losses came against Miami twice, Duke and Indiana, that is a measure the selection committee will look at leading to a lower seeding than one might expect.

Not that the players or even Roy Williams are taking any of this under consideration. The task at hand is pretty clear. First beat Duke, then worry about the next game when it comes. As long as UNC's takes care of what it can control, the postseason seeding process will take care of itself.