By R.L. Bynum
The opportunities for North Carolina to solidify its position in the NCAA men’s tournament will be there. But the Tar Heels, reeling after two consecutive close losses, will have to stack up some wins in their last eight games to avoid the bubble.
The Tar Heels (15–8, 7–5 ACC), 44th in the NET rankings, are 1–7 in what the current rankings classify as Quad 1 games. UNC will get four — and possibly five — more chances for more Quad 1 wins, starting with Tuesday night’s visit to Wake Forest (69 in the NET).
That designation for the game against the Deacons could change to a Quad 2 if the Deacons fall more than six spots in the NET rankings between now and Selection Sunday. It’s how these games are designated that day that matters.
ESPN’s last bracket projection, released Tuesday, had Carolina as a No. 9 seed in the East Regional for the second consecutive week. Jerry Palm of CBS Sports projects the Tar Heels as the No. 10 seed in the East.
NCAA quadrant system
Quadrant 1: Home games against teams with a NET ranking of 30 or better, neutral-site games against teams ranked 50 or better and road games against teams ranked 75 or better
Quadrant 2: Home 31–75, neutral 51–100, road 76–135
Quadrant 3: Home 76–160, neutral 101–200, road 135–240
Quadrant 4: Home 161 or lower, neutral 201 or lower, road 241 or lower
The Feb. 19 game at N.C. State (42 in the NET), the Feb. 25 home game against Virginia (15) and the home finale March 4 against Duke (25) will be Quad 1 opportunities. If Miami (39) can move up nine spots, the Hurricanes’ Feb. 13 visit to the Smith Center would be a Quad 1 game.
Carolina’s only Quad 1 win, the 89–84 overtime victory in New York on Dec. 17 against Ohio State, could change designations if the Buckeyes keep struggling.
Ohio State’s NET ranking is 41, meaning a fall of nine more spots would make that a Quad 2 win. The Buckeyes (11–12, 3–9 Big Ten) have lost four straight games and nine of their last 10.
In the selection committee’s view, that probably leaves UNC’s 80–69 home win on Jan. 21 over N.C. State as the Tar Heels’ best win.
The 103–101 four-overtime loss in Portland on Nov. 27 against Alabama (NET ranking of 3) and the 77–65 road loss to Indiana (22) on Nov. 30 are UNC’s “best losses.” The Tide (20–3) is ranked No. 3 in the AP Top 25 and the Hoosiers (16–7) are up to No. 18 after upsetting No. 1 Purdue 79–74 on Saturday.
It’s anybody’s guess whether the Tar Heels can turn things around this season. But remember how last season played out.
Duke blew out Carolina 87–67 a little over a year ago in Chapel Hill and Saturday’s loss only came by six points. The home 76–67 loss last season to Pittsburgh that had most thinking that Carolina was headed for the NIT wasn’t played until Feb. 16.
After that, Carolina’s only losses were against eventual ACC champion Virginia Tech (72–59) in the ACC tournament and to Kansas in the NCAA championship game (72–69).
There are a lot of issues for this season’s team to work out to come close to replicating that run, but four starters have experience pulling off that sort of streak.
Opponent NET breakdown
|College of Charleston||62||2||Win|
|At Virginia Tech||50||1||Loss|
|At Wake Forest||69||1|
|At N.C. State||42||1|
|At Notre Dame||196||3|
|At Florida State||208||3|
|No. 16 Miami||15–5||24–6|
|No. 13 Virginia||15–5||23–6|
|No. 25 Pittsburgh||14–6||21–10|
Duke 62, North Carolina 57
No. 13 Virginia 75, Louisville 60
Georgia Tech 73, Boston College 65
Virginia Tech 82, Florida State 60
Syracuse 72, Wake Forest 63
No. 26 Miami 78, No. 25 Pittsburgh 76
Clemson 87, Notre Dame 64
End of regular season
|28||Friday||W, 101–40||Johnson C. Smith||Home||Exhibition|
|11||Friday||W, 102–86||College of Charleston||Home||2–0|
|20||Sunday||W, 80–64||James Madison||Home||4–0|
|Phil Knight Invitational|
|24||Thursday||W, 89–81||First round: Portland||Portland||5–0|
|27||Sunday||L, 103–101, |
No. 1 Alabama
|ACC/Big Ten Challenge|
|30||Wednesday||L, 77–65||No. 21 Indiana||Bloomington, Ind.||5–3|
|4||Sunday||L, 80–72||Virginia Tech||Blacksburg, Va.||5–4, |
|10||Saturday||W, 75–59||Georgia Tech||Home||6–4, |
|13||Tuesday||W, 100–67||The Citadel||Home||7–4|
|CBS Sports Classic|
|17||Saturday||W, 89–84, OT||Ohio State||New York||8–4|
|30||Friday||L, 76–74||Pittsburgh||Pittsburgh||9–5, |
|4||Wednesday||W, 88–79||Wake Forest||Home||10–5, |
|7||Saturday||W, 81–64||Notre Dame||Home||11–5, |
|10||Tuesday||L, 65–58||No. 14 Virginia||Charlottesville||11–6, |
|14||Saturday||W, 80–59||Louisville||Louisville, Ky.||12–6, |
|17||Tuesday||W, 72–64||Boston College||Home||13–6, |
|21||Saturday||W, 80–69||N.C. State||Home||14–6, |
|24||Tuesday||W, 72–68||Syracuse||Syracuse, N.Y.||15–6, |
|1||Wednesday||L, 65–64||Pittsburgh||Home||15–7, |
|4||Saturday||L, 63–57||No. 12 Duke||Durham||15–8, |
|7||Tuesday||L, 92–85||Wake Forest||Winston-Salem||15–9, |
|11||Saturday||W, 91–71||Clemson||Home|| 16–9, |
|13||Monday||L, 80–72||No. 16 Miami||Home||16–10, |
|19||Sunday||L, 77–69||N.C. State||Raleigh||16–11, |
|22||Wednesday||W, 63–59||Notre Dame||South Bend, Ind.||17–11, |
|25||Saturday||W, 71–63||No. 14 Virginia||Home||18–11, |
|27||Monday||W, 77–66||Florida State||Tallahassee, Fla.||19–11, |
|4||Saturday||L, 62–57||No. 12 Duke||Home||19–12,|
|8||Wednesday||W, 85–61||Boston College||Greensboro||20–12|
|9||Thursday||L, 68–59||No. 14 Virginia||Greensboro||20–13|
Photo via @UNC_Basketball