No Carolina fans will be pleased with the first game loss to North Carolina State, but the College World Series is a double elimination format. While it isn’t common (only 3 teams in the past 30 years), teams have lost their opening game and gone on to be national champions. It isn’t impossible.
1998 USC: The Trojans lost their opening game in Omaha against LSU, but they responded in the “loser’s bracket.” USC beat Florida, Mississippi State, and managed to beat LSU twice to get a place in the Championship Game. This was before the Championship was a three game series, and the Trojans beat Arizona State by an absurd 21-14 score.
2006 Oregon State: This might be the team that UNC fans are most familiar with because they ended up beating Carolina in the championship series. The Beavers were trounced by Miami in their first game 11-1, but responded to beat UGA, Miami, and Rice twice to face off with Carolina. After losing the opening game of the championship series, the Beavers beat the Tar Heels twice. As painful as it might be for Carolina fans to remember, this team proves that Omaha is double elimination for a reason, and nothing is over until a team is eliminated.
2010 South Carolina: The Gamecocks lost to Oklahoma 5-1 in their starting game, but the rest of their tournament had a definite trend. In wins over Arizona State, Oklahoma, two over Clemson, and two over UCLA, the South Carolina pitching staff only allowed one run in each game. Stellar pitching paced South Carolina to a championship, and it negated the poor start.
With the way UNC has pitched in the NCAA Tournament, the South Carolina response might not instill a lot of faith among the fans. This team was the number one overall seed for a reason though. With a day off, UNC will face a tough challenge against LSU, but this doesn’t mean they won’t respond.
Even if it’s rare, teams can still recover from an opening game loss. The Tar Heels have a chance, but they’ll have to play more like they did in the regular season than they have in the tournament.