Compilation: Tar Heel NCAA projections
Carolina is over halfway through the ACC schedule, and by this point in a normal season, the job of a Tar Heel fan is usually to scope out the closest NCAA Tournament destination and decide which one looks like the softest landing spot for the Tar Heels. That's not the case this year, as Carolina (16-7, 6-4 ACC) still has some work to do to firm up its NCAA credentials.
The problem, right now, is quality wins--or lack thereof. According to the WarrenNolan.com Nitty Gritty Report, the Tar Heels have two negatives working against them: a 3-5 road record and a woeful 1-5 mark against RPI Top 50 teams. That's still not enough to keep the Tar Heels out of the field of 64 (or 68), but it virtually eliminates any cushion, and makes games like Saturday's home date with Virginia virtual must-wins.
Here's a look at a variety of NCAA projections, and where the Tar Heels stand. We've tried to include the usual brackets from the big companies you've heard of, along with a handful you might not have heard from that have fared well over the years in the Bracket Project's bracketology rankings (which are very helpful in showing that the big boys usually aren't the most accurate forecasters). We'll update this post each week as necessary, and as we get closer to March, we'll add some of the others suggested by the Bracket Project as they begin to do updated brackets.
CBSSports.com: The bracket is done by Jerry Palm, who has a fairly good understanding of the NCAA's numbers, and he has Carolina in as an 11 seed, matched up against 6 seed Ohio State in Kansas City. But don't get too comfortable. Palm also lists the Tar Heels "on the fence," putting them squarely on the bubble, with quality wins again the reasoning for placing them there.
Yahoo Sports: In what has been the most accurate bracket forecast over the past five years, Carolina is in as an 11 seed. This particular bracket doesn't forecast exact matchups--it just does seedings--but the potential 6s would be San Diego State, UNLV, Cincinnati and Minnesota.
Sporting News: Again, Carolina is slotted as an 11 seed. The potential 6-11 matchups are SDSU, UNLV, Cincinnati and Georgetown.
ESPN: I think we're reaching consensus. Carolina is an 11 seed, matched with 6 Minnesota in--nooooooooo!--Dayton.
Lobofan: In as a 9 seed, facing 8 seed UCLA in Dayton. That sound you hear isn't Larry Drew committing another turnover; it's CBS salivating at putting this matchup in prime time and watching ratings soar.
Busting the Bracket: In as an 11 seed. The 6s are Georgetown, Cincinnati, Oklahoma State and Oklahoma.
Overall thoughts: The Tar Heels are overwhelmingly seen as an 11 seed. That puts them dangerously close to "First Four" territory, and you have to think the NCAA would love the idea of legitimizing their expanded NCAA Tournament by putting a marquee team like North Carolina in what are now largely seen as preliminary games in Dayton. If the Tar Heels continue to bob along near the 11-12 range, it wouldn't be a surprise to see them in Dayton on the Tuesday before the "real" tournament begins on Thursday.
One of Carolina's strongest credentials right now, mentioned by several sites, is the lack of a "horrible loss." That means the Tar Heels have to be very careful not to stumble on the road at Georgia Tech (RPI 120) or Clemson (RPI 151). For that matter, even Maryland's current RPI of 73 means a loss in College Park would be hurtful.