It goes without saying that losing to Duke has never been a historically enjoyable experience. However, this year’s loss felt a bit different than before — while in previous years it was usually a lot of anger over losing to the Blue Devils themselves more than anything, the loss this year felt more like the Heels beating themselves so badly that they couldn’t even stop a bad Duke team (see: last night’s game against Miami). Is Duke’s bad better than some teams’ good? Of course, but regardless, UNC should’ve taken them down, but they failed to do the things they needed to do to get the job done.
Such a feeling is enough to make a fan realize that maybe the NCAA Tournament isn’t realistic this season. In our latest episode of the What in Tar Nation podcast, I talked about how I felt like this team’s tournament hopes were rapidly fading.
It is especially looking pretty grim when looking at the rest of UNC’s schedule — Wake Forest, Clemson, Miami, NC State, Notre Dame, Virginia, Florida State, and another game against Duke all await them to close the season out. Can the Heels win a handful of these? Absolutely. Will they? That is the part I am starting to worry about.
However, for those that don’t like to look too far ahead, I have some good news for you: Joe Lunardi’s latest NCAA Bracketology was released today, and he has UNC as a No. 9 seed in the East Region. As some may recall from last week’s update, UNC was a #8 seed, so the drop after the loss to Duke was very minimal.
If I had to guess, losing to two other teams that Lunardi considers tournament teams right now had to have helped in his decision-making, and it’s also worth noting that the Duke loss was a Quad 1 loss. UNC’s only “bad” loss according to the NET rankings has been to Pitt, who counted as a Quad 1 loss when they played the first time. It really shows how quirky these rankings are, but the main point is that the Heels aren’t buried just yet.
Next up for the Tar Heels is Wake Forest tonight in Winston-Salem. For those keeping score at home, this game counts as a Quad 1 game, so it would be big if the Heels managed to make it home with a win. Let’s hope that they are up to the challenge to deal with yet another tough road environment.