Your 2018-19 ACC Regular Season Co-Champions, the North Carolina Tar Heels! In an era where a team has to play eighteen conference games, to make it through with only two losses, both at home, is remarkable. It’s just a shame no other ACC team could help Carolina out and give Virginia a third loss so that the Heels could have it outright.
That lone loss since the Louisville blowout is still impacting the Tar Heels. It likely locked in a one seed for the Cavaliers in both the ACC and NCAA Tournaments, and it pushes the Tar Heels to the Thursday Night side of the ACC Tournament. That side of the bracket very likely means that to take home this title, they’ll have to complete a three game sweep of the Blue Devils, this time with Zion Williamson, and then avenge their loss to the Wahoos.
So now that we know Carolina’s seed for the ACC Tournament, let’s take a quick peek at the side of the bracket Carolina will play on. After that, we’ll review where Carolina likely stands in terms of their NCAA seeding and what they need to do.
First, let’s remind ourselves of all the matchups:
Tuesday, March 12th
Noon – No. 12 Miami vs. No. 13 Wake Forest
2 p.m. – No. 10 Georgia Tech vs. No. 15 Notre Dame
7 p.m. – No. 11 Boston College vs. No. 14 Pitt
Wednesday, March 13th
Noon – No. 8 NC State vs. No. 9 Clemson
2 p.m. – No. 5 Virginia Tech vs. 12/13 winner
7 p.m. – No. 7 Louisville vs. 10/15 Winner
9 p.m. – No. 6 Syracuse vs. 11/14 Winner
Thursday, March 14th
12:30 p.m. – No. 1 Virginia vs. 8/9 Winner
2:30 p.m. – No. 4 Florida State vs. 5/12/13 Winner
7 p.m. – No. 2 North Carolina vs. 7/10/15 Winner
9 p.m. – No. 3 Duke vs. 6/11/14 Winner
This much we know: Carolina plays at 7 PM on Thursday, and their opponent will either be Louisville, Georgia Tech, or Notre Dame. The Heels are 1-1 against the Cards, 1-0 against Georgia Tech with the win coming on the road, and 1-0 against Notre Dame with the win coming in Chapel Hill.
Considering the slide that the Cards have been on, to assume that Louisville will make it to Thursday is dubious, especially with the possibility of Notre Dame on the other side. If any of the Wednesday teams have a chance of faltering against their Tuesday opponent, it’s likely Louisville. So, the Tar Heels should be ready for all three teams just in case.
Should they win Thursday, they would move on to the second game on Friday (which is listed as 9:00 PM, but let’s be honest: it’ll be more like 9:30). That game looks likely to be a third meeting with the Blue Devils, but don’t discount the fact that Duke’s opponent likely will be Syracuse. The Orange have the distinction of being one of the only teams to beat the Blue Devils with Williamson on the floor, and with the bad losses Syracuse has taken lately, they likely would love a second win over the Blue Devils to boost their resume. Their zone defense may be just what’s needed to do it.
That said, prepare yourselves both for a third meeting with the Blue Devils, and the inevitable hype that goes with Zion Williamson finally playing in this game. The winner would lock in a one seed for the NCAA Tournament, and likely stare at Virginia in the title game on Saturday night.
Will a team come in and disrupt what’s expected? The top of the league has been so dominant, it’s easy to expect that to continue this weekend. There’s also a reason it’s extremely rare for a 1/2/3/4 semifinals: teams at the top don’t have a lot to play for, whereas teams in the middle and lower are fighting for seeding and their NCAA Tournament lives. It should be a fun week in Charlotte.
The weekend was a good one for Carolina in making their case to get a one seed.
Before the Duke game tipped off, Auburn helped Carolina out immensely by pulling off a Senior Day win against Tennessee. The Volunteers now appear to be stumbling going into the SEC Tournament, and likely will have to win it outright in order to finish ahead of Carolina in the seeding line. That’s important both in the discussion for a one seed and for who gets a spot in Columbia, South Carolina.
Let’s be honest: the only teams in the country playing better than Carolina right now are Virginia and Gonzaga. Carolina has a win against the Zags, and has a shot at revenge against the Cavs. The selection committee may look at Duke with some understanding right now without a key piece, but at some point wins matter. Going into the ACC Tournament, Carolina absolutely controls their fate for a one seed.
Unfortunately, so does Duke.
First the stats: Carolina goes into the ACC Tournament 9-5 in Q1, 7-0 in Q2, 6-0 in Q3, and 4-0 in Q4. The Blue Devils are now 8-4 in Q1, 6-1 in Q2, clean in the other quadrants. If Louisville and Syracuse hold seed and face UNC/Duke, both teams will have a chance to rack up three more Q1 wins to take down the ACC title.
When comparing recent play of the two teams, however, Carolina is clearly the stronger team. Should the two meet up on Friday and the Blue Devils come out on top, would the committee reward the Heels for the regular season sweep? It’s possible, but the Heels will need some help from the SEC.
Kentucky is the team you have to look out for here. There’s an argument that even if the Volunteers were to win the SEC Tournament their loss against Auburn disqualified them for the one simply because of their recent play, but the Wildcats continuing their strong play and taking down the SEC probably would give them the one seed over a Tar Heels team that they beat back in December.
Is it fair that Carolina swept Duke but likely has to beat them a third time to get a one seed? No, but unfortunately the argument that the committee likely would make is that the Blue Devils were a different team with Williamson in the middle, and a win over the Heels would show that they are that team again. It’s why K likely chose to rest the big man for one more game, as there was no advantage for the Devils to play him and have Carolina get the experience to be ready for next weekend.
All of it boils down to this: get to the ACC Tournament title game, the Tar Heels are a one seed and playing in Columbia. Anything short of that and you need some help.
See you in Charlotte!