It is official: the North Carolina Tar Heels are the eighth seed in the East region of the NCAA Tournament. They will face Marquette in the first round on Thursday, and the winner will move on to take on the winner of the Baylor vs. Norfolk State game. Other notable teams in the East region are UCLA, Saint Mary’s, Texas, Virginia Tech, Kentucky, and Purdue.
It has been quite a season for the Tar Heels in the first year of the Hubert Davis era. Back in November they went 3-0 before losing a tough game against Purdue, and then got run out of the gym against Tennessee. They were able to make up for it by beating Michigan to start December (who also made the tournament), but they ran into yet another wall against Kentucky. For most of the season, UNC couldn’t buy a Quad 1 loss and their NCAA Tournament hopes looked bleak, but an amazing win against Duke mailed the ticket to the Heels, and their wins against Virginia Tech turning into Q1 wins punched it.
Looking on the other side of UNC, Marquette should be an interesting matchup. They went through similar ailments as the Heels, but were able to make their NCAA Tournament future a bit more certain earlier on. In mid-January, the Golden Eagles swept both #20 Seton Hall and #11 Villanova, and beat #20 Xavier. However, they were eliminated immediately in the Big East Tournament by Creighton, and also lost to 15-16 DePaul earlier this month. I haven’t had a chance to deep dive into their stats for the season, but at first glance Marquette and UNC have a lot in common, but the Heels may have the edge.
Barring a huge upset, the winner will move on to play #1 seed Baylor, who has looked really good for most of the season. Once the best team in the country back in December, the Bears slipped down the rankings to #8 before climbing their way up to #3…only to lose to Oklahoma in their first game of the Big 12 Tournament. A lot of their struggles are due to injuries, with their national top-30 signee tearing his ACL in October, and their top scorer injuring his foot during the season. The Heels have a solid opportunity to pull off an upset if they are able to advance, but we will see if they’re able to get through Marquette first.
Overall, this bracket is a pretty good one for the Heels when it comes to their opportunity to advance. If given the choice between Kansas, Gonzaga, Arizona, and Baylor, I definitely would’ve chosen Baylor as the 1-seed for UNC’s bracket. As for the rest of the field, I’m not thrilled to see Purdue and Kentucky on the other side of the East, but the positive is that UNC is familiar with both teams. It should be a fun tournament, and I am fully prepared for every possible result. Hopefully this team gives their all for Hubert Davis and makes everyone proud, because at the end of the day, that’s all you can ask for.
What do you all think of this NCAA bracket? Do you like where UNC landed? How far do you think they will get? Let us know in the comments below.