Here it is, the last week of the ACC regular season. Normally, this week is rife with scenarios for the Tar Heels about both their ACC and NCAA Tournament placement. Regular readers of this site will know I buried myself in this last year, giving you handy guides on what to look for.
This year is...different.
When Cole Anthony returned, I envisioned a case where I would at least be doing one of these things to describe what Carolina needed to do to get into the NCAA Tournament, their case, seed, and so forth, as well as their ACC sending scenarios. As each loss mounted, though, Carolina sunk further into the basement and any argument for the NCAA Tournament went away. It also seemed like they were destined for Tuesday in Greensboro.
I’ll save you some agony in one sense: the chances are ridiculously slim, and any chance at all hinges not on the court, but in Indianapolis.
The reason for the ambiguity is the pending appeal Georgia Tech filed in the wake of the sanctions for recruiting violations. The NCAA slapped a one year postseason ban on the Yellow Jackets, however that penalty cannot be enforced during the appeal process. Because of that, right now everyone has to proceed with the assumption that Georgia Tech will be participating in the ACC Tournament.
There really isn’t a timeline for when the NCAA will come up with their decision, so it is absolutely possible that the Yellow Jackets will be able to stay off their penalties for one year, if not longer, and due to that they’ll be able to head to Greensboro with the chance to play further into March.
If this happens, and there’s really been no indication the NCAA will have a decision before next Tuesday, then the ACC Tournament format will be the one we are used to. That is with seeds 10-15 playing on Tuesday, those winners joining seeds 5-9 on Wednesday, and those winners playing 1-4 on Thursday. If the NCAA upholds the penalty and Georgia Tech doesn’t file some sort of injunction (don’t laugh, an alumnus is threatening that) then only 11-14 play on Tuesday, they join 5-10 on Wednesday, and 1-4 on Thursday.
Should Georgia Tech play in this tournament, Carolina can't escape Tuesday. A quick look at the standings shows that the best Carolina can finish is 7-13, and spot number 9 is held by...Georgia Tech at 9-9. At this time, the best thing to do is assume Georgia Tech will play because counting on the NCAA to come up with a timely decision is akin to hoping for Jim Boeheim to play a full 40 minutes of man-to-man.
Should the NCAA make a ruling, however, what could happen? The bottom four of the ACC right now is Miami (6-12), Wake Forest (6-12), Pitt (6-13), and UNC. Virginia Tech will likely join that pack at 6-12 after they play Louisville tonight.
I won't break it all down for you because it would get too lost in the weeds, but the only team Carolina can finish in a tie with would be Miami, thanks to their head-to-head tiebreaker. If everyone loses out and Carolina wins all their games, or if Carolina wins out and everyone loses out but Miami who goes 1-1, then Carolina would be the 10th seed and get the single bye to Wednesday.
Because this is a small chance that hinges on a small chance of something happening, you should be prepared to watch the Tar Heels on Tuesday. Considering what those tickets normally go for, it should be a very inexpensive way to go to Greensboro and cheer this team on.
That’s not to say you should just ignore where Carolina finishes. In a 15-team field, your placement matters and if Carolina hopes to complete the magical five in five, knowing their path is important. So, on Friday I’ll have an updated list for you about where Carolina can finish based on the results of Saturday’s games. We might as well do one of these for old times sake.
Until then, enjoy whatever this season has left to offer. It may be too little too late, but at least the team appears to be giving you a little of what should have been.