Compilation: UNC NCAA Projections 3/5
Hard to believe that when we started this two weeks ago, it was largely to keep an eye on whether the Tar Heels were being projected as in or out of the NCAA Tournament field of 68. Now, with Carolina riding a five-game winning streak, it's more to see just how high they've climbed in the latest forecasts.
The Tar Heels got good news in the latest official NCAA RPI, as they've climbed to 20th, which is--no matter what some analysts would have you believe--well out of bubble territory. Now, with less than two weeks until Selection Sunday, let's see where the predictions have the Tar Heels slotted:
CBSSports.com: Jerry Palm has the Tar Heels 9th (up from 10th last week, and up from 12th two weeks ago) and facing Illinois in Philadelphia. That's a matchup that could've happened in Maui if UNC had defeated Butler. The winner of that game would take on fast-rising Georgetown.
Yahoo! Sports: An 8 seed, with the listed 9s as Colorado, VCU, Memphis and Creighton.
Sporting News: 9 seed, same as last week despite a 2-0 week last week. The 8s are Colorado State, Notre Dame, NC State and San Diego State. One of the negative factors listed for Carolina is a 2-6 record against the RPI top 50. The Tar Heels have an opportunity to improve that this week (Maryland is 70, but Duke is 1).
ESPN: A 7 seed, the highest we've seen so far, matched against Oklahoma in Auburn Hills. The winner would likely face Michigan in a virtual home game for the Wolverines.
USA Today/Patrick Stevens: First time we've seen this particular location--a 9 seed in Salt Lake City against Notre Dame, with the winner likely facing Gonzaga. The 9 seed is actually a drop of 1 spot from last week in this same exact prediction...but would many Tar Heels really mind these matchups? Note that Stevens has been fairly accurate in past years.
Bracket Project: An 8 seed, with the listed 9s as St. Mary's, Oregon, Oklahoma and Illinois.
Lobofan: A 9 seed, facing 8 seed VCU in Kansas City for the right to move on and play Kansas. One of the committee's guiding principles is supposed to be avoiding rematches of the previous year's Tournament matchups, so this seems a little doubtful--but the prospect of putting Roy Williams on TV in Kansas City against the Jayhawks could easily be too much to resist.
Crashing the Dance: As mentioned last week, this is a unique computer-generated S-curve based on past committee seedings and current results. As of today, it has the Tar Heels in the middle of the 7 seed line.
Some overall thoughts:
1. Take a minute to either read or Instapaper this smart take on key bracket questions from SI.com. Several issues that you'll hear a lot about, but that few analysts understand, are mentioned.
2. Carolina's 2-0 week really didn't do much to improve the projected seedings. That's because wins against Clemson and Florida State don't do much for the Tar Heels numbers-wise. This week, however, will be different--a 2-0 week with road wins at Maryland and at home against Duke would almost certainly take UNC out of any potential 8-9 matchups and move them more consistently into the 7 range (and perhaps beyond).
3. This is the first week that none of these projections have included a UCLA matchup.
4. The Tar Heels could catch a break if they stay in the 8-9 range. Assuming Duke gets a 1--and with the return of Ryan Kelly, that seems more likely for a variety of reasons--and Indiana stays on the 1 line, the Tar Heels would be unlikely to be in either of those regions due to the policy against trying to avoid conference and regular season rematches. That would leave Carolina in a region with one of the more fluid (and in theory, more beatable) 1s like Louisville or Gonzaga.