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UNC Basketball: NCAA Tournament history by seed under Roy Williams

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It’s been one seed or bust for Roy Williams’ teams at UNC. Could this be the year it all changes?

NCAA Basketball: Notre Dame at North Carolina Bob Donnan-USA TODAY Sports

This will be the fourteenth NCAA tournament for Roy Williams since returning to North Carolina in 2003-2004 (remember, the Tar Heels missed the tournament in 2010 and played in the NIT). Williams and his teams are used to being near the top of the brackets, but it isn’t always that way. Let’s take a look at the Tar Heels’ seeding history under Coach Williams.

One Seed

Out of 13 NCAA tournaments for North Carolina and Roy Williams, the Tar Heels have been a one seed seven times. Combined, those teams are 28-4. Each time the Tar Heels are seeded on the top line, they’ve advanced to at least the Elite Eight, with two of the seven trips ending there (2007, 2012 - Creighton is still on my Hate List). Only once have the top-seeded Tar Heels fizzled out in the Final Four (2008). That leaves four top-seeded tournaments. Three of those (2005, 2009, 2017) ended in National Championships while North Carolina was the runner-up in 2016. Out of the four losses, three of them were against a two seed; Georgetown in 2007, Kansas in 2012, and Villanova in 2016 (the other remaining loss was to one-seeded Kansas in 2008).

The one-line seems to be out of the equation for the Tar Heels, but hey, it could happen! (Ok, so it won’t...)


Two, Three, and Four Seeds

The Tar Heels have been a two, three, or four seed once each in Coach Williams’ tenure at North Carolina. With a combined record of 6-3, there have been mixed results in this grouping of seeds, with the Tar Heels never passing the Elite Eight. All three teams that ended these North Carolina teams’ runs went to at least the Final Four with two of the three making the championship game. However, only once, in 2011, were the Tar Heels the lower seed when they lost.

In 2006, the Tar Heels were on the three-line. That year, they narrowly defeated 14th-seeded Murray State and then promptly lost to 11th-seeded George Mason in the Second Round.

In 2011, after a missed NCAA tournament in 2010, North Carolina found itself on the two-line. The Tar Heels weaved their way through Long Island, Washington, and Marquette before falling to Brandon Knight-lead 4th-seeded Kentucky in the Elite Eight.

Finally, in 2015, the Tar Heels were placed on the four-line. During this run, North Carolina barely escaped an upset in the First Round, beating Harvard by two. They regrouped for the Second Round against Arkansas, but fell to eventual runner-up Wisconsin lead by Frank Kaminsky.

Barring a disaster (or an absolute unheard of miracle), this group of seeds seems to be the most logical landing spot for North Carolina this year. With the mixed results, who knows what could happen. The Tar Heels could flame-out in the Second Round or find themselves deep into the Elite Eight. It’s really a crap-shoot at this stage.


Five or Lower Seed

North Carolina has only been lower than a four-seed three times in Roy Williams’ tenure as head coach in Chapel Hill. None of these teams advanced out of the first weekend with all three losing in the Second Round.

Twice, in 2004 and 2014, the Tar Heels found themselves on the six-line. In 2004, North Carolina defeated Air Force, but then lost to Texas. In 2014, the Tar Heels narrowly defeated Providence by two in the First Round, but their run was quickly ended by Iowa State. Both times, North Carolina was defeated by a three-seed.

The lowest seed of a Roy Williams North Carolina team was in 2013 when the Tar Heels were seeded on the eight-line. After defeating Villanova in the First Round, North Carolina was sent home by Kansas in the Second Round.

Fans shouldn’t worry about landing below a four-seed, even with a first-game-exit in the ACC Tournament, but landing below a five seed doesn’t bode well for the Tar Heels.


Here’s a condensed look at North Carolina’s tournament history under Roy Williams.

Easily accessible brackets can be found here. Use the drop-down menu on the left to toggle between years.