North Carolina went into the season as the #1 team in the nation in the AP Preseason polls. They were expected to dominate, returning the full starting lineup from a team that went to the Elite Eight last season. They were bringing back arguably the best player in the game in Harrison Barnes. The expectations were high to bring another banner to the Dean Dome.
The Tar Heels hit an early bump in the road by losing a tough game at UNLV dropping them in the rankings. After a quality win over Wisconsin at home, the Tar Heels faced the team that eliminated them last season: The Kentucky Wildcats.
After the loss to UNLV, Kentucky moved to #1 in the rankings and have been in the top five ever since. UNC fell short in the last second at Kentucky handing them their second loss.
The Tar Heels would lose two more games since then, one at Florida State and the heartbreaking loss at home against Duke. Even with four losses, can UNC still get a number one seed in the NCAA Tournament? The answer, Yes.
North Carolina currently sits as the #2 seed in the South Region of Joe Lunardi’s Bracketology on ESPN.com. With a record of 23-4 (10-2 ACC), they would more then likely have to win out in the regular season, and possibly win the ACC Tournament. By doing that, they would likely clinch a #1 seed.
They don’t have a tough schedule remaining, with just two games against ranked opponents left. Both on the road at Virginia and at Duke. Winning both of those would give UNC two more quality wins to add to their resume, along with beating Michigan State and Wisconsin.
The current #1 seeds in Bracketology are Kentucky, Syracuse, Missouri and Michigan State.
Kentucky and Syracuse are both locks for a #1 seed at this time, but Missouri and Michigan States spots are still up for grabs. Missouri still has to play a tough Kansas team, which could pave the way open for UNC to sneak in. Either way with Kansas stock falling as a #2 seed, a win by Kansas or even a Missouri win and then future loss could give UNC a shot.
Meanwhile, Michigan State still has dates with Ohio State and Indiana. Seeing that UNC beat Michigan State earlier in the season, and a Michigan State loss to either of those teams could put UNC in Michigan States spot.
The key to the equation is beating Duke on March 3rd. If UNC loses that game, you can pretty much kiss any #1 seed chance goodbye. Beating Duke would put UNC and Duke in the running for a #1 seed. Leaving the ACC tournament as the deciding ground for both teams.
Now how fun would an ACC Tournament Championship Game between Duke and UNC to decide a #1 seed be?