What are the NCAA projections for UNC?

By R.L. Bynum

NEW YORK — There’s no doubt that this Carolina basketball season has gone better than the previous one, but the Tar Heels seem likely to be stuck in a dreaded No. 8-seed vs. No. 9-seed first-round matchup in the NCAA tournament for a second consecutive season. That winner, of course, has a No. 1 seed lurking in the second round.

As a No. 8 seed in the South Region last season, an 18–11 UNC team lost to No. 9 Wisconsin in West Lafayette, Ind., in what turned out to be Coach Roy Williams’ final game. This season’s Tar Heels enter NCAA play at 24–9 and with a lot of optimism that, despite their inconsistencies, they might have enough momentum to do some damage, even if they are probably stuck in the same sort of game.

CBS will announce the field at 6 p.m. Sunday.

Carolina has a history of overcoming that matchup and pulling an upset of the No. 1 seed, doing so in 1990 and 2000.

UNC, 25th in the KenPom ratings, slipped from 29 to 32 in the NET rankings after the 72–59 loss Friday night in an ACC Tournament semifinal to Virginia Tech at Brooklyn’s Barclays Center for the Tar Heels’ third consecutive semifinals loss (2019 vs. Duke and 2021 vs. Florida State).

The Tar Heels’ final NCAA resume shows a 3–8 record in Quad 1 games, 3–0 in Quad 2 contests, 13–0 vs. Quad 3 opponents and 5–1 vs. Quad 4 foes (the loss coming against Pittsburgh.)

For years, it’s been said that the NCAA tournament selection committee puts a lot of stock in how teams are playing heading into the tournament. Although UNC didn’t play well in Brooklyn, it won six of its last seven games and 12 of its last 15.

On bracketmatrix.com, the average predicted seed from dozens of bracket projections for the Tar Heels is 8.73. According to the website, that puts them as the top No. 9 seed, which would be the lowest in program history. That’s partially because it’s a down year for the ACC.

There are a few who see UNC as a No. 6 seed (including The Sporting News), and some predict a No. 7 seed. But most see Carolina as an 8 or 9 seed, with several ticketing it as a No. 10 seed.

ESPN’s Joe Lunardi projects the Tar Heels as a No. 9 seed in the East Region, meeting No. 8 Creighton in the first round in Fort Worth, Texas. In that scenario, UNC would likely have to get past No. 1-seed Baylor to make it to the Sweet 16 in Philadelphia.

Jerry Palm of CBS also has Carolina playing in the Fort Worth pod but as a No. 9 seed against No. 8-seed Ohio State in the first round, with No. 1 Kansas likely waiting in the second round. He has the Tar Heels in the Midwest Region, which will be played in Chicago.

Patrick Stevens of The Washington Post projects UNC as a No. 8 seed in the West Region, facing No. 9-seed Texas Christian in a first-round game in Portland, Ore., with a potential second-round matchup against No. 1-seed Gonzaga. The pod winners in the West advance to the Sweet 16 in San Francisco.

Brian Bennett in The Athletic has the Tar Heels playing in San Diego as the No. 8 seed against No. 9 Memphis in the South Regional, with No. 1 Arizona the likely opponent in the second round. In that scenario, UNC’s regional play would be in San Antonio.

Last season’s No. 8 seed matched the lowest in program history.

UNC’s NCAA tournament record by seed

No. 1: 63–12 — 1979, 1982, 1984, 1987, 1991, 1993, 1994, 1997, 1998, 2005, 2007, 2008, 2009, 2012, 2016, 2017 and 2019
No. 2: 23–9 — 1981, 1983, 1985, 1988, 1989, 1995, 2001, 2011 and 2018
No. 3: 3–4 — 1980, 1986, 1999 and 2006
No. 4: 4–2 — 1992 and 2015
No. 6: 3–3 — 1996, 2004 and 2014
No. 8: 7–4 — 1990, 2000, 2021 and 2013
National championship years italicized

In 1990 as a No. 8 seed, UNC beat No. 9-seed Southwest Missouri State 83–70, then upset No. 1-seed Oklahoma 79–77 on Rick Fox’s driving shot at the buzzer before losing 96–73 in a Midwest Regional semifinal to Arkansas.

In 2000 as a No. 8 seed, Carolina beat No. 9-seed Missouri 84–70, then knocked off No. 1 seed Stanford 60–53. That team made it to the Final Four before losing to Florida 71–59 in a national semifinal.

NCAA tournament schedule

First FourTuesday and WednesdayDayton, OhioUD Arena
First/secondThursday and SaturdayBuffaloKeyBank Center
First/secondThursday and SaturdayIndianapolisGainbridge Fieldhouse
First/secondThursday and SaturdayFort Worth, TexasDickies Arena
First/secondThursday and SaturdayPortlandModa Center
First/secondFriday and SundayGreenville, S.C.Bon Secours Wellness Arena
First/SecondFriday and SundayMilwaukeeFiserv Forum
First/secondFriday and SundayPittsburghPPG Paints Arena
First/secondFriday and SundaySan DiegoViejas Arena
Sweet 16/Elite EightMarch 24 and 26San AntonioAT&T Center
Sweet 16/Elite EightMarch 24 and 26San FranciscoChase Center
Sweet 16/Elite EightMarch 25 and 27ChicagoUnited Center
Sweet 16/Elite EightMarch 25 and 27PhiladelphiaWells Fargo Center
Final FourApril 2 and 4New OrleansSuperdome

UNC season statistics

DateScore, recordLocationOpponent
(current rank)
November (4–2)
583–55 exhibition winHomeElizabeth City State
983–67 win, 1–0HomeLoyola Maryland
1294–87 win, 2–0HomeBrown
1694–83 win, 3–0RoadCollege of Charleston
2093–84 loss, 3–1Uncasville, Conn.Y — No. 9 Purdue
2189–72 loss, 3–2Uncasville, Conn.Y — No. 9 Tennessee
2372–53 win, 4–2HomeUNC Asheville
December (5–1, 1–0 ACC)
172–51 win, 5–2HomeX — Michigan
579–62 win, 6–2, 1-0 ACCRoadGeorgia Tech
1180–63 win, 7–2 ACCHomeElon
1474–61 win, 8–2 ACCHomeFurman
1898–69 loss, 8–3 ACCLas VegasZ — No. 5 Kentucky
2170–50 win, 9–3 ACCHomeAppalachian State
January (6–3, 6–3 ACC)
291–65 win, 10–3, 2-0 ACCRoadBoston College
578–73 loss, 10–4, 2-1 ACCRoadNotre Dame
874–58 win, 11–4, 3–1 ACCHomeVirginia
1588–65 win, 12–4, 4–1 ACCHomeGeorgia Tech
1885–57 loss, 12–5, 4–2 ACCRoadMiami
2298–76 loss, 12–6, 4–3 ACCRoadWake Forest
2478–68 win, 13–6, 5–3 ACCHomeVirginia Tech
2658–47 win, 14–6, 6–3 ACCHomeBoston College
29100–80 win, 15–6, 7–3 ACCHomeN.C. State
February (7–2, 7–2 ACC)
190–82 OT win, 16–6, 8–3 ACCRoadLouisville
587–67 loss, 16–7, 8–4 ACCHomeNo. 7 Duke
879–77 win, 17–7, 9–4 ACCRoadClemson
1294–74 win, 18–7, 10–4 ACCHomeFlorida State
1676–67 loss, 18–8, 10–5 ACCHomePittsburgh
1965–57 win, 19–8, 11–5 ACCRoadVirginia Tech
2170–63 win, 20–8, 12–5 ACCHomeLouisville
2684–74 win, 21–8, 13–5 ACCRoadN.C. State
2888–79 OT win, 22–8, 14–5 ACCHomeSyracuse
March (2–1)
594–81 win, 23–8, 15–5 ACCRoadNo. 7 Duke
— ACC Tournament —
1063–43 win, 24–8BrooklynVirginia
1172–59 loss, 24–9BrooklynVirginia Tech
— NCAA tournament —
X — ACC/Big Ten Challenge; Y — Basketball Hall of Fame Tip-Off; Z — CBS Sports Classic

Photo courtesy of the ACC


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