By R.L. Bynum
North Carolina’s NCAA tournament prospects that were shaky just a couple of weeks ago now look solid after six wins in seven games, three consecutive victories and, more importantly, finally a Quad 1 victory.
The Tar Heels streak of making nine consecutive NCAA tournaments looks safe. After Carolina went 14–19 last season, it was in jeopardy before the event was canceled.
That elusive first Quad 1 win in five tries came with Tuesday night’s 75–65 victory at Pittsburgh and improved the Tar Heels’ standing in the NET rankings by five spots to No. 45. Carolina gets another chance at a Quad 1 victory next Tuesday at Clemson, which is No. 51.
The NET, which stands for NCAA Evaluation Tool, is a tool the NCAA tournament selection committee has used for selecting and seeding teams since the RPI was scrapped after the 2017–18 season.
The victory over the Panthers is Quad 1 victory because they are No. 65.
UNC’s current resume on NET rankings:
No. 45, 1–4 vs. Quad 1, 3–1 vs. Quad 2, 5–0 vs. Quad 3 and 2–0 vs. Quad 4
How the NCAA breaks down the quadrants based on NET rankings:
Quad 1: Home vs. teams ranked 1–30; neutral vs. teams ranked 1–50; road vs. teams ranked 1–75
Quad 2: Home vs. teams ranked 31–75; neutral vs. teams ranked 51–100; road vs. teams ranked 76–135
Quad 3: Home vs. teams ranked 76–160; neutral vs. teams ranked 101–200; road vs. teams ranked 136–240
Quad 4: Home vs. teams ranked 161–351; neutral vs. teams ranked 201–351; road vs. teams ranked 241–351
The four Quad 1 losses for Carolina (11–5, 6–3 ACC) were at No. 5 Iowa, vs. No. 14 Texas in Asheville, at No. 20 Florida State and at No. 60 Georgia Tech.
The Tar Heels are 3–1 against Quad 2 teams with wins vs. No. 58 Stanford in Asheville, vs. No. 80 Kentucky in Cleveland and vs. No. 85 N.C. State, with the loss coming at N.C. State.
UNC is 5-0 in Quad 3 games and 2–0 in Quad 4 games.
How important was that win? In Jerry Palm’s last CBS Sports’ bracket, updated on Monday morning, the Tar Heels were on the “first four out” list.
Before the Pitt win, Sports Illustrated had Carolina on its “last four in” list and in the First Four as a No. 12 seed.
Bracketmatrix.com, which factors in numerous bracket projections, listed UNC as the best No. 11 seed before the Pitt victory.
The fact that the ACC is down a bit makes it harder for the Tar Heels to improve their seeding. UNC may have only four more Quad 1 opponents left depending on fluctuations before those games.
The two Duke games usually are both Quad 1 games but, as the rankings stand now, the game in Durham would be a Quad 2 and the game in Chapel Hill would be a Quad 3.
Here are rest of UNC’s opponents, their current NET rankings and where the game would currently fall:
- Tuesday at Clemson, No. 51, Quad 1
- Feb. 6 at Duke, No. 78, Quad 2
- Feb. 8 vs. Miami, No. 149, Quad 3
- Feb. 13 at Virginia, No. 6, Quad 1
- Feb. 16 vs. Virginia Tech, No. 47, Quad 2
- Feb. 20 vs. Louisville, No. 41, Quad 2
- Feb. 23 at Boston College, No. 132, Quad 2
- Feb. 27 vs. Florida State, No. 20, Quad 1
- March 1 at Syracuse, No. 50, Quad 1
- March 6 vs. Duke, No. 78, Quad 3
ACC pool photo