UNC has had a scary pattern over the last few years of making us all really, really nervous about whether or not they’re going to make the NCAA Tournament. The simple reason for that is head-scratching losses and lack of Quad 1 wins, but this year has maybe been as confusing as it’s ever been. They’re legitimately a really talented team that has had some really bad (individual) stretches of play, and it’s never really felt like everything has come together. In a perfect world, Armando Bacot, RJ Davis, Caleb Love, Leaky Black, and Pete Nance playing to their full potential does indeed make them a legit contender for the National Championship. The problem, however, is that we haven’t gotten that yet, and I’m starting to wonder if we ever will.
Thankfully, someone who is way more qualified than me still thinks that as of right now UNC is in the tournament, but thanks to the loss against Pitt, we don’t know what he is immediately thinking in terms of seeding. As of Tuesday, ESPN Bracketologist Joe Lunardi had UNC as the 8-seed in the NCAA Tournament, and in this theoretical bracket Alabama is the #1 seed. While it would seem that the loss to Pitt likely placed them in the last four in spot, which is where Lunardi has the Panthers right now, it’s also worth noting that Pitt is ranked 59th in the NCAA NET rankings thanks to four losses to Quad 2 opponents, and one loss to a Quad 4. As for the Tar Heels, Wednesday night was their first sub-Q1 loss, and most of their remaining schedule involve Quad 1 and 2 opponents, with Notre Dame and Florida State being the exceptions.
One thing that is worth noting is that as far as Vegas is concerned — if you care about that sort of thing — UNC is still a top 20 favorite (+3500) to win the NCAA title according to Draftkings.com. The next highest out of the ACC is Duke, who the Heels will face off this weekend in Cameron Indoor Stadium. Much like last season, beating the Blue Devils on the road could change the tournament conversation very, very quickly, but they will have to show a lot more toughness than they showed Wednesday night. Their success will also hinge on how healthy RJ Davis is, who shot poorly against the Panthers thanks to his injured hand. If you want a more in-depth preview of Saturday’s game, tune into our latest episode of the What in Tar Nation podcast, where Julius Emanuel, Tanya Anderson, and I discuss X’s and O’s, how the rivalry feels after last season’s ending, and more.
If you were to ask me right now, I would say that the Tar Heels’ tournament hopes are still healthy, but they will have to win at least two of these Quad 1 games coming up. Beat Duke, and the Heels can breathe a little bit easier going into their remaining stretch.