Now that the North Carolina Tar Heels have finished off the regular season, it’s time to start looking at where they may fit into the NCAA tournament. Carolina was projected by many to be a two-seed after a quality stretch that included wins vs. Duke, @ NC State, and @ Louisville. However, after losing its last two, is securing a top two-seed a pipe dream?
ESPN’s Joe Lunardi doesn’t seem to think so, as he has kept the Tar Heels on the two-line despite the recent skid. While nine losses may seem like a lot for a team with such high aspirations, UNC’s resume speaks for itself. Here is where the Tar Heels currently sit in a few of the important metrics used for NCAA seeding:
Now, let’s look at some past UNC teams under Roy Williams with similar resumes, how those teams were seeded, and how they finished in the NCAA tournament.
These Tar Heels were led by Tyler Zeller, John Henson, and Harrison Barnes, but it was the insertion of Kendall Marshall into the starting lineup that turned the season around. This team suffered some head-scratching losses early, but by the end of the season they were looking like the title contender that many expected them to be. Their resume was strong enough to warrant a two-seed in the NCAA tournament. There, they were able to win three games before getting bounced by Kentucky in the Elite Eight.
Surprisingly enough, the 2018 Tar Heels are either tied with or ahead of this team in each of the metrics listed above. This helps to reinforce the notion that a two-seed is still very much in play.
NCAA Tournament Finish: Elite Eight
In terms of the team itself, this feels like the best comparison to the current batch of Tar Heels. This team entered the year with big expectations. Marcus Paige looked poised to build off of an impressive sophomore campaign that earned him second-team All-America honors. However, Paige dealt with injuries for the majority of the season. As a result, Carolina, similarly to this year, was inconsistent throughout the season and failed to ever truly establish itself among the nation’s elite.
The nation’s elite in 2015, though, were on another level, as this was the year that featured 38-1 Kentucky and Frank Kaminsky-led Wisconsin, neither of which even won the national championship. While it might be difficult to argue that the current UNC team is “elite”, it’s honestly tough to assign that label to any squad. The parity in college hoops this season should allow the 2018 Tar Heels more opportunities than the 2015 team.
Ultimately, the 2015 Heels earned a four-seed in the tournament and got bounced by the aforementioned Wisconsin team in the Sweet Sixteen.
NCAA Tournament Finish: Sweet Sixteen
Believe it or not, these Tar Heels have a resume comparable to that of the team that took home the NCAA title last season. Obviously, the roster is much different this time around and there’s no denying that postseason expectations were much loftier around this time last year. Still, it shouldn’t be understated how impressive it is that Carolina has been able to maintain such strong metrics.
It’s worth noting that last season’s team was able to secure a one-seed with seven losses. Some analysts even felt that eight-loss Duke should have been on the top line. In a year where the top ten has seemingly been completely different from week to week, it’s not entirely crazy to think that if the Heels win the ACC Tournament, they could have a case for a third consecutive one-seed.
NCAA Tournament Finish: National Champions
Overall, these three teams are likely indicative of the worst-case scenario (2015), best-case scenario (2017), and current projection (2011) in terms of seeding for the 2018 Tar Heels. If the Tar Heels win at least one game in Brooklyn, it’s doubtful they’ll receive anything lower than a three-seed. As is always the case with the ACC Tournament, this week will be chock-full of opportunities for Carolina to continue to boost its resume.