UNC Basketball: Bracketology


Hard as it may be to believe, Carolina is more than half of the way through their 2014-15 campaign.  The Heels are six games into ACC play and Selection Sunday is just fifty days away.  The UNC Basketball team has played well for the most part this season, and are ranked fifteenth in the country.  Carolina has played especially well lately, winning nine of ten (including five of six in the ACC).

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This regular season success is nice, but it is what happens in March that matters.  The last few years, March has not been kind to Carolina, as they haven’t made it back to the Final Four since they won the National Championship in 2009.  Whether or not this will be the year for Carolina, a lot will be determined by their seed–since 2000, 9 national champions have been a one seed, and only one (Connecticut last year) has been higher than a three seed.  So, what seed is Carolina likely to get?

General Resume

Jan 21, 2015; Winston-Salem, NC, USA; North Carolina Tar Heels forward Kennedy Meeks (3) goes up for a shot during the second half against the Wake Forest Demon Deacons at Lawrence Joel Veterans Memorial Coliseum. North Carolina defeated Wake Forest 87-71. Mandatory Credit: Jeremy Brevard-USA TODAY

Carolina has a 15-4 record (5-1 in the ACC).  The Heels are ranked 15th in both the USA Today and AP polls, and are ranked 12th in RPI.  The RPI (Rating Percentage Index) is generally a good indicator of how the NCAA Selection Committee will rank a team, as it takes into consideration more than just record, but also things like strength of schedule.  While there are always exceptions, if Carolina is ranked 12th in RPI at the end of the season, they would likely get a 3 or a 4 seed.

Key Wins and Losses

Another thing that the Selection Committee looks at is key wins and losses.  To this point, Carolina’s best win was over then-5th ranked Louisville.  However, they have had no shortage of good wins.  They already have four wins against teams in the top 25 and will get more later in the season as ACC play continues.  The Heels have proven they can beat good teams, which will certainly help their seeding come tournament time.

Jan 10, 2015; Chapel Hill, NC, USA; North Carolina Tar Heels guard Marcus Paige (5) reacts in the second half. The Tar Heels defeated the Cardinals 72-71 at Dean E. Smith Center. Mandatory Credit: Bob Donnan-USA TODAY Sports

Another thing that will help UNC’s resume is a one-point loss to Notre Dame.  The Irish were ranked 13th when they played Carolina, but have since risen to 8th.  Even though the Heels lost, they showed that they can play with the best teams in the country.  The biggest dings on Carolina’s resume will be an inexplicable 12 point loss to Butler and a loss to then-unranked Iowa.  These show that the Heels can be inconsistent, and inconsistency is frowned upon by the Selection Committee.  But, assuming Carolina doesn’t have any more mind-boggling losses like these, the early-season losses shouldn’t hurt them too bad.

Strength of Schedule

Carolina plays in the most difficult conference in College Basketball.  Because of this, a ten win season in the ACC will look far better than a ten win season in, say, the PAC 12.  This will definitely help when the Selection Committee is looking at Carolina’s season.  Also, the Heels played some difficult non-conference games, against #1 Kentucky and #12 Ohio State to name just a few.  These difficult games all add-up, boosting Carolina’s resume, and will get the Heels a better seed.


I see Carolina as a three or four seed.  I see them continuing to play good basketball, like they have been.  They will probably lose a few more games (they have four remaining against-top ten teams), but will also probably pick up a few more good wins.  They have proven they can play with the best, but a few losses have shown that the Heels are not at the level of teams like Kentucky and Virginia.  Their two bad losses will keep them from being a one- or two seed, but their wins against good teams will prevent them from being anything less than a five-seed.

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  • Best case: Two Seed.  Even if Carolina wins their last twelve games, I don’t see them being higher than a two seed.  The losses against Butler and Iowa will leave two big a stain on their season.

    Worst case: Nine Seed.  I think it’s highly unlikely Carolina wins less than five of their last twelve games.  That would leave them at a 20-11 record.  Their wins against Louisville and other ranked-teams would keep them from falling too far, but the Heels, if they won their first game, would have to play a 1-seed (like what happened in 2013 when they lost to Kansas in the round of 32).