UNC’s life on bubble includes possibly going from Final Four to First Four

By R.L. Bynum

North Carolina’s men’s team hasn’t done much of late to help its NCAA resume, and factors that the Tar Heels can’t control are making it look even worse. There are now two wins that, on game day, were Quad 1 but are now Quad 2.

For the second consecutive season, UNC is on the bubble in mid-February.

ESPN’s bracket projection released Tuesday has the Tar Heels in the “last four in” group, along with Clemson. Joe Lunardi has the Tar Heels and the Tigers playing in the First Four. Even before Monday’s 80–72 home loss to Miami, Jerry Palm of CBS projected UNC for the First Four.

Few saw a scenario when UNC was the preseason No. 1 team that the Heels might go from the Final Four to the First Four, but it’s a real possibility. That’s assuming Carolina makes the field, which isn’t a safe bet at this point. Just like last season at this time, a trip to the NIT is possible.

“I’m stressed the heck out,” Armando Bacot said after the Miami loss Monday. “I want to get back to the NCAA tournament. That’s all of our goals. This never would have crossed my mind, but I’m 100% worried. We all know. Everybody in the building knows what’s at stake.”

NCAA quadrant system

Quadrant 1 (UNC is 0–9 in these games): 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 (61): Home 31–75, neutral 51–100, road 76–135
Quadrant 3 (50): Home 76–160, neutral 101–200, road 135–240
Quadrant 4 (50): Home 161 or lower, neutral 201 or lower, road 241 or lower

Carolina’s loss to Miami dropped the Heels six spots in the NET rankings to 46. But, in one of the only bits of good news, the Canes’ NET ranking moved up to 30 to barely be classified as a Quad 1 loss.

The 89–84 overtime win over Ohio State on Dec. 17 in New York was their only Quad 1 win for nearly two months (other than 12 hours or so after the 80–69 home win over N.C. State on Jan. 21 before it became Quad 2) but the Buckeyes’ struggles have made that a Quad 2. Ohio State (11–14) has lost six in a row and 11 of its last 12, falling to a NET ranking of 54,

All of that leaves UNC 0–9 in Quad 1 games, 6–1 in Quad 2 games (the loss is the 65–64 home setback Feb. 1 against Pittsburgh), 5–0 in Quad 3 games and 5–0 in Quad 4 games.


Carolina has two chances for Quad 1 wins under the current rankings — Sunday at N.C. State (36 in the NET rankings) and Feb. 25 at home against Virginia (13). The March 4 home game against Duke could become Quad 1 if the Blue Devils, currently with a NET ranking of 32, move up to at least 30.

There was some other positive movement in game classification.

Gardner-Webb has surged 21 spots to 159 in the NET to make that 72–66 Nov. 15 win Quad 3. Wake Forest is at 73, a rise in the last week, to make the 88–79 home win Jan. 4 Quad 2 victory. The 92–85 loss on Feb. 7 at Wake Forest would become a Quad 2 if the Deacs fall to 76 or lower.

UNC quad breakdown

OpponentNET rankingQuadResult
College of Charleston552Win
James Madison883Win
Iowa State161Loss
At Indiana171Loss
At Virginia Tech571Loss
Georgia Tech2164Win
The Citadel3294Win
Ohio State542Win
At Pittsburgh511Loss
Wake Forest732Win
Notre Dame2014Win
At Virginia131Loss
At Louisville3314Win
Boston College1914Win
N.C. State362Win
At Syracuse982Win
At Duke321Loss
At Wake Forest731Loss
At N.C. State361
At Notre Dame2013
At Florida State2124

ACC standings

No. 16 Miami15–524–6
No. 13 Virginia15–523–6
No. 25 Pittsburgh14–621–10
N.C. State12–822–9
North Carolina11–919–12
Wake Forest10–1018–13
Boston College9–1115–16
Virginia Tech8–1218–13
Florida State7–139–22
Georgia Tech6–1414–17
Notre Dame3–1711–20

Saturday’s games
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

(current ranking)
28FridayW, 101–40Johnson C. Smith HomeExhibition
7MondayW, 69–56UNCWHome1–0
11FridayW, 102–86College of CharlestonHome2–0
15TuesdayW, 72–66Gardner-WebbHome3–0
20SundayW, 80–64James MadisonHome4–0
Phil Knight Invitational
24ThursdayW, 89–81First round: PortlandPortland5–0
25FridayL, 70–65Semifinals:
Iowa State
27SundayL, 103–101,
4 OTs
No. 1 Alabama
ACC/Big Ten Challenge
30WednesdayL, 77–65 No. 21 IndianaBloomington, Ind.5–3
4SundayL, 80–72 Virginia TechBlacksburg, Va.5–4,
0–1 ACC
10SaturdayW, 75–59Georgia TechHome6–4,
1–1 ACC
13TuesdayW, 100–67The CitadelHome7–4
CBS Sports Classic
17SaturdayW, 89–84, OTOhio StateNew York8–4
Jumpman Invitational
21WednesdayW, 80–76MichiganCharlotte9–4
30 Friday L, 76–74PittsburghPittsburgh9–5,
1–2 ACC
4WednesdayW, 88–79Wake ForestHome10–5,
2–2 ACC
7SaturdayW, 81–64Notre DameHome11–5,
3–2 ACC
10TuesdayL, 65–58No. 14 VirginiaCharlottesville11–6,
3–3 ACC
14SaturdayW, 80–59LouisvilleLouisville, Ky.12–6,
4–3 ACC
17TuesdayW, 72–64Boston CollegeHome13–6,
5–3 ACC
21SaturdayW, 80–69N.C. StateHome14–6,
6–3 ACC
24TuesdayW, 72–68SyracuseSyracuse, N.Y.15–6,
7–3 ACC
1WednesdayL, 65–64PittsburghHome15–7,
7–4 ACC
4SaturdayL, 63–57No. 12 DukeDurham15–8,
7–5 ACC
7TuesdayL, 92–85Wake ForestWinston-Salem15–9,
7–6 ACC
11SaturdayW, 91–71ClemsonHome 16–9,
8–6 ACC
13MondayL, 80–72No. 16 MiamiHome16–10,
8–7 ACC
19SundayL, 77–69N.C. StateRaleigh16–11,
8–8 ACC
22WednesdayW, 63–59Notre DameSouth Bend, Ind.17–11,
9–8 ACC
25SaturdayW, 71–63No. 14 VirginiaHome18–11,
10–8 ACC
27MondayW, 77–66Florida StateTallahassee, Fla.19–11,
11–8 ACC
4SaturdayL, 62–57No. 12 DukeHome19–12,
11–9 ACC
ACC tournament
8WednesdayW, 85–61Boston CollegeGreensboro20–12
9ThursdayL, 68–59No. 14 Virginia Greensboro20–13

Photo via @UNC_Basketball


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