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UNC Basketball: ACC and NCAA Tournament Seeding update

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With one week to go in the regular season and two until Selection Sunday, where do the Heels stand?

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

Everyone’s hearts still going? That game yesterday was enough to make you reach for the nitro pills, I’m sure.

A week ago, things seemed pretty easy. Beat Syracuse and you wrap up at least a third seed, and the NCAA seeding seemed pretty static. Then Carolina went 2-0 on the week, Duke lost against the Hokies, and Kentucky couldn’t handle playing on the road in Knoxville. All of a sudden things are a little more unsettled, but in a good way for Carolina.

We’ll tackle seeds in order of the tournaments. First up, the ACC.

ACC Tournament Seeding

No more grids needed. With Carolina winning Tuesday they were guaranteed to finish no worse than third in the conference, so you don’t need a table to know about the other teams.

So, below, we’ll go over the scenarios if Carolina goes 2-0, 1-1 with a BC win and Duke loss, 1-1 with a BC loss and Duke win, and 0-2. First, though, here’s who each team has left:

UVA: @ Syracuse Monday 3/4, vs. Louisville Saturday 3/9

Duke: vs. Wake Tuesday 3/5, @ UNC Saturday 3/9

UNC: @ BC Tuesday 3/5, vs. Duke 3/9

OK, got it? So, let’s talk about where Carolina can end up:

If UNC goes 2-0 AND:

  • UVA goes 2-0, Carolina is the #2 seed with a share of the regular season title
  • UVA goes 1-1 or 0-2, Carolina is the #1 seed and outright ACC regular season champs

In this scenario, with Duke now one game back, it doesn’t matter what Duke does against Wake.

If UNC beats Boston College, loses to Duke AND:

  • UVA goes 2-0, and Duke beats Wake, Carolina is the #3 seed (Duke 2-0 vs UVA, Carolina 0-1)
  • UVA goes 2-0, and Duke loses to Wake, Carolina is the #2 seed
  • UVA goes 1-1, and Duke beats Wake, Carolina is the #3 seed, shared regular season title (Duke 3-1 in mini conference, UNC 1-2, UVA 1-2, UVA has head to head)
  • UVA goes 1-1 and Duke loses to Wake, Carolina is the #2 seed, shared regular season title
  • UVA goes 0-2, and Duke beats Wake, Carolina is the #2 seed, shared regular season title (Duke 2-0 vs UVA vs Carolina’s 0-1)
  • UVA goes 0-2, and Duke loses to Wake, Carolina is the #1 seed, Regular Season champs before tip off.

If UNC loses to Boston College, beats Duke AND:

  • UVA goes 2-0, and Duke beats Wake, Carolina is the #2 seed
  • UVA goes 2-0, and Duke loses to Wake, Carolina is the #2 seed
  • UVA goes 1-1, and Duke beats Wake, Carolina is the #2 seed, shared regular season title
  • UVA goes 1-1 and Duke loses to Wake, Carolina is the #2 seed, shared regular season title
  • UVA goes 0-2 and Duke beats Wake, Carolina is the #1 seed, regular season champs
  • UVA goes 0-2 and Duke loses to Wake, Carolina is the #1 seed, regular season champs before tip off

If UNC goes 0-2 AND:

  • UVA goes 2-0, and Duke beats Wake, Carolina is the #3 seed
  • UVA goes 2-0, and Duke loses to Wake, Carolina is the #3 seed (Duke 2-0 vs UVA, Carolina 0-1)
  • UVA goes 1-1, and Duke beats Wake, Carolina is the #3 seed
  • UVA goes 1-1, and Duke loses to Wake, Carolina is the #3 seed (Duke 2-0 vs UVA, Carolina 0-1)
  • UVA goes 0-2, and Duke beats Wake, Carolina is the #3 seed (UVA has head to head)
  • UVA goes 0-2, and Duke loses to Wake, Carolina is the #3 seed (Duke gets 1 as 3-1 in the mini conference, UVA and UNC tied at 1-2, UVA has the head to head)

As you can see, Carolina’s loss to UVA really hurts their chances for the one seed in the ACC Tournament. They basically have to win out and hope for some help in order to grab it. That said, there are plenty of scenarios where they won’t be a one seed but can hang an ACC regular season championship banner. So, as the week goes on, cross off the scenarios that can no longer happen, and you’ll be all set for what could happen on Saturday.

NCAA Tournament Seeding

Going into Saturday, there was a path for Carolina to grab a one seed, but it seemed a little more faint. The consensus seemed to be that UNC was a strong two seed, behind Kentucky, Gonzaga, Duke, and UVA, Duke still getting the benefit of the doubt by being Zion-less. Their throttling of Miami on Saturday didn’t hurt their cause, and UVA won easily as well, so it’s safe to say those top-three seeds are still there.

Tennessee, however, threw a wrench into the proceedings on Saturday with their win against Kentucky. The combination of the win by the Vols and the perfect week by Carolina will likely make the Heels the fourth-best team in the country, and they are now are 8-5 in quadrant one, plus winners of twelve of their last thirteen. They also survived a scare against their opponent on Saturday, which Michigan State, Houston, and Kentucky didn’t do.

All of that said, what I said last week is probably the best way to think about Carolina’s seeding: don’t think about where they are now, but what they have to do to get to the one line. Why? They still have one game against Duke left, and then the ACC Tournament where they are most likely going to be a two/three seed and have to beat Duke and UVA just to win it. In short: they have a ton of big games left, and those games are going to factor into their final seed.

What would they need to do to get a one? The easy answer is for UNC to get to the ACC Tournament championship game. At that point they’d have a winning record against Duke, possibly 3-0, and playing some of the best basketball in the country. A loss to UVA wouldn’t matter as much as you’re just looking to steal Duke’s one seed. That said, if they go undefeated the rest of the way they not only will be a one seed, they’d likely be the top seed out of the ACC.

The good news is that the resume is strong enough now that it would be difficult to see Carolina falling back from a two seed. If they go 0-3 they could tumble to a three, but otherwise they are safely on the two line, staring at Gonzaga and one of either Kentucky or Tennessee on the other side.

The other thing Carolina is looking for is a pod that is close to home. For a while, the assumption was that Virginia’s preferred destination to end up was Columbia, SC, but maybe it isn’t. Columbus, OH is only about 20 miles further away, and they’d have the benefit of going to a pod where the other top seed really doesn’t care about whether they’d win or lose in Kentucky. This would allow the NCAA to give UNC and Duke a pod where tickets would sell out and provide a great atmosphere, and UVA to get away from a potential hostile environment against ACC foes.

It’s something worth considering. Virginia is close to getting the top overall seed, and when that happens the committee asks them where they would prefer to go. Maybe they see Ohio as an easier place for their fans to travel to than South Carolina. Maybe the NCAA really likes the TV optics that putting Duke and Carolina in the same pod creates.

Or maybe Carolina sweeps through to the ACC Tournament Final and renders all of this moot.

As certain as things looked last week, things are absolutely more in the air now. The answer, though, is easy: win and you get what you are looking for.