By R.L. Bynum
North Carolina figured to need at least three wins in Greensboro to secure an NCAA tournament berth and, after getting only one, the Tar Heels are firmly on the bubble that is likely about to burst.
Two prominent bracket projections — from Joe Lunardi on ESPN and Jerry Palm on CBS — list the Tar Heels as the fifth team out of the field. Both list Clemson as one of the teams ahead of them but still not in the field.
Lunardi put it bluntly in a Friday media availability.
“They have no chance, at large or otherwise,” Lunardi said. “I don’t say that joyfully. But, the truth of the matter is that if it wasn’t for the fact that it says North Carolina on their jerseys, we wouldn’t be having the conversation. This is really an epic failure of both expectations and performance in the bracketology era.”
The resume for Carolina (20–13) after its 68–49 loss to Virginia in the ACC Tournament quarterfinals Thursday, despite 24 points from junior guard RJ Davis, is dotted with close losses and missed chances at Quad 1 wins.
Carolina is 47th in the NET rankings and N.C. State is 45th. Why does Lunardi see the Wolfpack as a No. 10 or No. 11 seed while says he doesn’t see the Tar Heels in the field?
“These comparisons to the Tar Heels are a false narrative for everyone,” Lunardi said. “North Carolina doesn’t have a case in any way, shape or form. They have had as many opportunities as any high-level team in the country and lost consistently.”
The Wolfpack has wins over Miami and Duke while UNC lost to the Hurricanes and got swept by the Blue Devils.
If Carolina heads to the NIT, it could be a No. 1 seed in the 32-team field along with Clemson, should the Tigers also not make the NCAA field.
“Carolina, in my view, isn’t even going to be a one seed in the NIT,” Lunardi said.
One projection has the Tar Heels playing host to Morehead State in the first round as a No. 1 seed. The Eagles (21–11) won the Ohio Valley Conference regular-season title but lost 65–58 to Southeast Missouri in the first round of the OVC Tournament.
After the Virginia loss, the players said they’d do whatever the team decided, but none sounded too excited about accepting an NIT bid.
The Tar Heels’ only Quad 1 win in 10 chances under the current NET rankings is their 71–63 victory on Feb. 25 in Chapel Hill over the Cavaliers. However, that Quad 1 classification of that win is precarious, considering that Virginia is 29 in the NET. It becomes Quad 2 if the Hoos fall below 30.
NCAA quadrant system
Quadrant 1 (UNC is 1–9 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 (6–4): Home 31–75, neutral 51–100, road 76–135
Quadrant 3 (7–0): Home 76–160, neutral 101–200, road 135–240
Quadrant 4 (6–0): Home 161 or lower, neutral 201 or lower, road 241 or lower
A Virginia (24–6) win over Clemson (23–9) in Friday’s second ACC Tournament semifinal would boost UNC’s longshot chances of making the NCAA field. The Tigers, with two Quad 4 losses, have what UNC doesn’t: At least one more chance to impress the selection committee.
In Lunardi’s “First four out,” the teams ahead of UNC are Oklahoma State, Clemson, Nevada and Wisconsin. According to Palm, the teams ahead of the Tar Heels but still out of the field are Arizona State, Clemson, Michigan and Mississippi State.
Carolina would be the first team ranked No. 1 in the preseason AP Top 25 to miss the NCAA field since it expanded to 64. Previously, three other preseason No. 1 teams missed the tournament: UCLA in 1966 when there was a 22-team field, South Carolina in 1970 (25 teams) and N.C. State in 1975 (32 teams).
UNC quad breakdown
|College of Charleston||50||2||Win|
|At Virginia Tech||76||2||Loss|
|At Wake Forest||90||2||Loss|
|At N.C. State||45||1||Loss|
|At Notre Dame||186||3||Win|
|At Florida State||222||4||Win|
|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 courtesy of the ACC