Compilation: Tar Heel NCAA Projections 2/26
A big win over NC State did more than just boost the mood on Franklin Street. It also vaulted Carolina eight spots in the newest official RPI, where they currently stand 22nd. Despite the constant chatter from so-called analysts about whether the Tar Heels are on the bubble, 22nd is well out of bubble territory. Of course, which do you think gets better ratings and more page views: debating whether UNC is on the bubble, or debating whether Virginia is on the bubble?
With less than three weeks until Selection Sunday, let's take a look at whether that improved RPI translated into better projections in this week's NCAA Tournament forecasts. As with the last two weeks, we'll look at some of the better-known brackets, but we'll also use some of the predictions that have fared the best in the Bracket Project's ranking of the best projections over the past three years.
CBSSports.com: 10 seed, up from a 12 last week. The more intriguing part of this forecast is the matchup, which you're going to see again: the Tar Heels against 7 seed UCLA in Auburn Hills.
Yahoo! Sports: This bracket doesn't predict actual matchups, but does have Carolina slotted as a 9 seed. The 8 seeds are NC State, UCLA, Oregon and Missouri.
Sporting News: Placed as a 9 seed, with the note, "Avoiding road losses at Clemson and Maryland is key." Again, they don't get into exact matchups, but the 8s are NC State, UCLA, Minnesota and VCU.
ESPN: An 8 seed in Dayton, facing Illinois for the right to play Florida.
Patrick Stevens (USA Today): Up to an 8 seed (from 9 last week), with an 8-9 matchup against UCLA in Auburn Hills.
Bracket Project: Up one line to an 8 seed, with the possible 8-9 matchups including UCLA, Creighton, Oregon and Oklahoma.
Lobofan: This independent blogger, who has fared very well in the rankings from past years, has an intriguing inter-sectional matchup for the 10 seed Tar Heels: 7 seed San Diego State, which just happens to be coached by Steve Fisher, who also happens to have been the coach of Michigan's Fab Five. Ever heard of them? Oh yes, they lost to the Tar Heels 20 years ago in the national title game.
Crashing the Dance: We're adding this unique format to the mix this week. Entirely automated, it uses artificial intelligence to learn from previous years how the NCAA Tournament selection committee has seeded the bracket based on past profiles. In other words, this site is smarter than we are. It's also been a very useful tool that has been as accurate or better than many of the better-known human-generated brackets. Today, CTD has the Tar Heels placed as an 8 seed, on the fringe of breaking through to the 7s.
1. It might be time to start coming to grips with the possibility of an opening-round matchup against UCLA. That's the kind of buzz-generating marquee opener the committee loves, and both teams are hovering around the 7-10 seed range that would make a head-to-head battle possible. The Bruins have a big home game against Arizona this weekend, and then close with road trips to Washington State and Washington. Keep in mind also that the NC State coaching staff has significant ties to UCLA, which means it wouldn't be hard for the Bruins to locate a detailed scouting report on the Tar Heels.
2. There's a possible third UNC-NC State matchup looming in Greensboro at the ACC Tournament, and the outcome is likely to make a difference for NCAA Tournament seeding. Both teams are seeded in close proximity to each other in all of the above brackets. The Wolfpack has the easier closing schedule, but has also been unpredictable on the road. If they meet head-to-head again, it could determine which gets the higher seed.
3. Start girding yourself now for an epic two-game finale to the regular season. Unpredictable Maryland is almost certain to be desperate for a victory in College Park next Wednesday, and then Carolina comes home for a senior day game against Duke. That's the toughest two-game closing kick in the ACC, and it means that even next week's tournament predictions are likely to undergo some major changes based on those outcomes.