UNC women drawing No. 6 seed, a road trip only latest egregious NCAA decision the program has dealt with in last 20 years

By R.L. Bynum

CHAPEL HILL — The NCAA women’s basketball tournament selection committee egregiously underseeded North Carolina for the second consecutive season, but it’s just the latest of a few curious decisions the program has endured in the last 20 years.

Last season, the Tar Heels were 23–6, ranked No. 17 entering Selection Sunday and should have earned a No. 4 seed and hosting privileges. But the committee instead made them a No. 5 seed and sent them to Arizona. They proved that group wrong by easily knocking off the Wildcats 63–45 on their home court before a sellout crowd in the second round.

This season’s Tar Heels (21–10), who fell one spot to No. 20 in the final AP Top 25 poll released Monday, have a better NCAA resume than last year but will have to pull off something similar.

Should they win Saturday against the No. 11 seed (4 p.m., ESPN), the winner of Thursday’s play-in game between Purdue (19–10) and St. John’s (22–8), they’ll likely have to beat No. 3-seed and No. 12-ranked Ohio State (25–7) on its homecourt Monday, assuming the Buckeyes beat No. 14-seed James Madison (26–7) in Saturday’s first round.

With a better NCAA resume than last season and projections that Carolina would be a No. 4 seed and host for the first two rounds, the committee instead made the Tar Heels a No. 6 seed and sent them to Columbus, Ohio.

There are rules about the placement of teams from a league in the same subregionals and that may have created some challenges for the committee with an NCAA-high eight ACC teams making the field. It still doesn’t explain why UNC drew a No. 6 seed.

“I don’t know enough about the S curve and how that all fits in with so many ACC teams in, and you don’t want to play them until a certain round,” UNC coach Courtney Banghart said after Sunday night’s watch party at Top of the Hill restaurant.

Only three ACC teams — No. 1-seed and No. 4-ranked Virginia Tech (27–4), No. 3-seed and No. 13-ranked Duke (25–6) and No. 3-seed and No. 10-ranked Notre Dame (25–6) — are NCAA hosts. The Tar Heels are the only ranked ACC team that isn’t a host.

The Carolina players were relieved that South Carolina isn’t in their path to the Final Four but disappointed not to be selected as a host.

“I thought our league would help us host, given the respect that the committee has for our league,” said Banghart, whose team would meet the Hokies for a third time if both advance to the Seattle 3 Regional final. “We’ve got to continue to fight that — fight how to get more consistent hosting from the ACC, given our product.”

Carolina’s 5–5 record in its last 10 games could have worked against the Tar Heels in the minds of the committee. It may not have factored in that starting forward Alyssa Ustby (13.1 points and a team-leading 8.5 rebounds) missed five of those games and starting guard Eva Hodgson (9.3 points and a team-leading 40.2% shooting from 3-point range) was out for six of them.

“I don’t know some of the details on that, to be honest, but I do think there’s an element of [record in] the last 10 [games],” Banghart said. “Some people — the media — who were tracking our team more closely recognize the injuries, what they played into that. I can’t guarantee the committee was paying attention to that. I know it’s in a note somewhere, but are they tracking those as closely as maybe people that know our team better?”

In addition, redshirt freshman guard Kayla McPherson (7.4 points per game) didn’t make her season debut until the fourth of the last 10 games.

“We come into this with honestly a pretty healthy ‘I don’t know,” Banghart said of predicting where her team would fall in the bracket. “I wasn’t sure enough to do any work ahead of time.”

The Tar Heels went 6–7 against teams ranked in the NET top 25. That win total is as many as the teams with the next-highest total, Colorado and Tennessee, have combined. UNC has six wins over Top 25 teams, with three of those on the road. The Tar Heels played the 12th-toughest schedule in the country, according to NET ranking.

That all somehow added up to a No. 6 seed.

The last two seasons under Banghart are far from the only times that the NCAA has made the Tar Heels’ NCAA tournament path much tougher than they deserved.

Three seasons under Coach Sylvia Hatchell were particularly perplexing, and Carolina overcame only one of the three.


Like last season and in 2006, Carolina will have to overcome it all. At least they won’t encounter No. 1 and reigning national champion South Carolina on their path to the Final Four in Dallas, which will go through one of the two Seattle regionals.

“I think there was, especially the kids, kind of a visceral reaction to that,” Banghart said of not having to encounter the Gamecocks until the Final Four. “If we can get that far, I don’t hate having a chance to do that. And that has been a great contest year after year after year.”

Columbus subregional

At the Schottenstein Center in Columbus, Ohio
Thursday’s play-in result

St. John’s 66, Purdue 64
Saturday’s first-round results
No. 3-seed Ohio State 80, No. 14 James Madison 66
No. 6 North Carolina 61, No. 11 St. John’s 59
Monday’s second round
Ohio State 71, North Carolina 69

(current ranking)
9WednesdayW, 91–59Jackson StateHome1–0
12SaturdayW, 75–48TCUHome2–0
16WednesdayW, 93–25South Carolina StateHome3–0
20SundayW, 76–65James MadisonHarrisonburg, Va.4–0
Phil Knight Invitational
24ThursdayW, 85–79OregonPortland5–0
27SundayW, 73–64No. 17 Iowa State Portland6–0
DecemberACC/Big Ten Challenge
1ThursdayL, 87–63No. 2 IndianaBloomington, Ind.6–1
7WednesdayW, 64–42UNCWHome7–1
11SundayW, 99–67WoffordHome8–1
16FridayW, 89–47USC UpstateHome9–1
Jumpman Invitational
20TuesdayL, 76–68No. 18 MichiganCharlotte9–2
ACC season begins
29ThursdayL, 78–71Florida StateHome9–3, 0–1 ACC
1SundayL, 68–65No. 4
Virginia Tech
Blacksburg, Va.9–4, 0–2 ACC
5ThursdayL, 62–58MiamiCoral Gables, Fla.9–5, 0–3 ACC
8SundayW, 60–50No. 10
Notre Dame
1–3 ACC
12ThursdayW, 70–59VirginiaCharlottesville, Va.11–5,
2–3 ACC
15SundayW, 56–47N.C. StateHome12–5,
3–3 ACC
19ThursdayW, 61–56No. 13 DukeHome13–5,
4–3 ACC
22SundayW, 70–57Georgia TechHome14–5,
5–3 ACC
26ThursdayW, 72–57PittsburghPittsburgh15–5,
6–3 ACC
29SundayW, 69–58ClemsonClemson16–5,
7–3 ACC
2ThursdayW, 73–62VirginiaHome17–5,
8–3 ACC
5SundayL, 62–55LouisvilleLouisville17–6,
8–4 ACC
9ThursdayL, 75–67SyracuseSyracuse17–7,
8–5 ACC
12SundayW, 73–55Boston CollegeHome18–7,
9–5 ACC
16ThursdayL, 77–66, OTN.C. StateRaleigh18–8,
9–6 ACC
19SundayW, 71–58Wake ForestHome19–8,
10–6 ACC
23ThursdayL, 61–59No. 4
Virginia Tech
10–7 ACC
26SundayW, 45–41No. 13 DukeDurham20–9,
10–8 ACC
MarchACC Tournament
2ThursdayW, 68–58Clemson Greensboro21–9
3FridayL, 44–40No. 13 Duke Greensboro21–10
NCAA tournament
18SaturdayW, 61–59 St. John’sColumbus, Ohio22–10
20MondayL, 71–69No. 12 Ohio State Columbus, Ohio22–11

Photos courtesy of UNC Athletics Communications


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