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UNC Basketball: A way too early look at UNC in the ACC and NCAA Tournament picture

Yes, it’s mid-January, but March is closer than you think.

NCAA Basketball: Clemson at North Carolina Bob Donnan-USA TODAY Sports

While there have certainly been some downs, UNC has mostly had a pretty solid season so far. After Tuesday night’s win against Clemson, the Tar Heels’ regular season is nearly 2/3rds complete, while the ACC slate is 1/3rd complete.

It’s far from a full résumé and plenty will change before the end of the regular season, but lets take a look at how UNC is shaping up in the ACC and NCAA Tournament pictures.

After starting the ACC season 1-2, the Tar Heels have rebounded to 4-2, and currently sit 1.5 games back of Virginia. The schedule starts to get real tough looking in February, but at least for the time being, UNC has a chance to extend that winning record further.

Obviously, it’s the ACC, so these teams aren’t pushovers, but the next couple games are winnable. Virginia Tech is on the road and NC State is improved this season, but if the Tar Heels win those games and the one against Georgia Tech, then suddenly they’re sitting at 7-2 and are probably within striking distance as the full conference picture will start to get clearer.

Considering UNC’s schedule, the best record they could finish with in conference play is probably around 14-4/13-5. They would probably need to pull that off in order to contend for the regular season crown. Anything less than that is almost definitely going to come up short, unless things get nuts and the conference finishes in a five-way tie or something weird. Worst case (non-injury riddled division) scenario is probably about 9-9.

As far as NCAA Tournament hopes, the Tar Heels’ résumé is in pretty solid shape. Even with the loss to Wofford, UNC is a three seed at the Bracket Matrix, which is a composite of many different Bracketology sources.

UNC has wins over seven teams currently in the field of 68 on the Bracket Matrix. Since it happened, the win over Ohio State is starting to look better and better. Since losing to Carolina, the Buckeyes have won five straight, including one of then #1 Michigan State. What looked like a win over a meh power conference team now appears to be one over a Big Ten contender.

It would probably take a complete collapse for UNC to miss the tournament entirely. A lot can change with not only them, but also the teams they’ve played, but their résumé is already pretty strong, and they have some decent chances to improve it ahead of them.

Yes, it’s mid-January and there’s still a whole lot of season left, but stuff is going to start coming into focus sooner than you think.