I’m not here to argue that UNC deserves to be in the NCAA Tournament. They missed opportunity after opportunity to not have this be their fate, and we all know how that turned out. Fair enough. What I do take issue with is the conversation around why UNC is such a slam dunk exclusion from even being a possibility.
By all accounts, NC State is safely in the field. ESPN’s Joe Lunardi currently has the Wolfpack as an 11 seed in his latest Bracketology. Why is it that the team down the road is easily accepted as a tournament team but UNC is clearly and definitively not worthy?
Consider this comparison:
Heels absolutely had chances to play way in to NCAAT and should have taken advantage. That said:— Adam Lucas (@jadamlucas) March 11, 2023
0 Q3/4 losses
Non-conf SOS 7
0 Q3/4 losses
Non-conf SOS 230
Spoilers: Team A is UNC and Team B is NC State.
Carolina backed into a second Quad 1 win with Ohio State exceeding expectations in the Big 10 Tournament. The comparison in Strength of Schedule is, well, no comparison at all really. The two teams have the same number of Quad 2, 3, and 4 losses.
If UNC is clearly out, then NC State should be too. That’s not the case, according to every source, so why are the talking heads making it out to sound like including UNC in the field would somehow be an affront to the very existence of good taste and good basketball?
Once again, this is not to say UNC deserves to be there at face value. It’s difficult to look at what they’ve done and say that they definitively deserve a spot. However, when you compare them to teams that the so-called experts say SHOULD be making it? Well, that feels pretty hypocritical.
None of us really have any idea what will happen tomorrow. Joe Lunardi has been wrong before. He currently has UNC in his Next Four Out group. If they truly fall short of making it into the field of 68, I don’t think anyone will be screaming that they were robbed or anything like that. Teams that are extremely similar to them getting in without so much as a second thought? Frustrating, but I suppose that’s the nature of this kind of thing.
Lunardi has said multiple times that UNC wouldn’t even be as high as they are in his rankings if they didn’t have North Carolina on their chest. At the same time, he has no problem comfortably putting the team one spot ahead of them in the field? Curious.
The announcers even lobbied hard last night for Clemson to be included in the field because of the solid wins they have, but the Tigers are currently 11 spots behind the Tar Heels in the NET rankings. If this metric is supposed to be one we hold up as our North Star, then how does it make sense that #46 is a punchline and #57 is not getting enough respect?
Carolina probably isn’t going to make it, and that’s fine. There’s enough inconsistency with the way they’ve played all season that it would be unlikely for them to come anywhere close to the run they made last year, so their inclusion would likely just be window dressing. But the NCAA has put a lot of stock in the NET rankings and having that carry a substantial amount of weight in more or less breaking the ties of in vs out. If we’re going to hold it up as the standard, then the way everyone is talking about UNC just doesn’t make a lot of sense.
In or out, it doesn’t matter, I’m just asking for it to at least make a little bit of sense.