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How Far Can North Carolina Go in the NCAA Tournament?

North Carolina basketball has been overlooked all year. North Carolina recently received an eight-seed in the tournament and will have to take on ninth-seeded Marquette in the first round of the NCAA Tournament.

In Hubert Davis’ first season in relief of Roy Williams, he led the Tar Heels to a 24-win season. Included in the season was a win over Duke in Coach K’s last game at Cameron Indoor. With wins over Duke and Michigan, but losses to Wake Forest and Pittsburgh, what can we expect from the Tar Heels? How far can North Carolina go in the NCAA Tournament?

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North Carolina Basketball Bracketology | NCAA Tournament Preview

Overall Record: 24-9
Conference Record: 15-5
Record vs. Ranked Teams: 2-4

North Carolina KenPom Rankings

30113.0 (26)97.0 (63)70.1 (38)+7.26 (54)

Road to the Final Four | Bracketology

North Carolina put up a stinker of game in the ACC Semifinal against Virginia Tech. Coming into the tournament, North Carolina should be well-rested. They get to take on a Marquette team that has struggled recently. At one point in the middle of the season, Marquette was ranked near the top of a good Big East Conference. In Marquette’s last 10 games, they have a 4-6 record, with losses to DePaul and Butler. Justin Lewis is the leading scorer for Marquette, scoring 17.7 a game. The Golden Eagles finished sixth in the Big East this year.

Looking beyond Marquette, the Tar Heels will most likely have to take on top-seeded Baylor in the round of 32. Baylor has been dealing with injuries all year long and look like one of the weakest one-seeds in the tournament. With an injury to LJ Cryer and losing Jonathan Tchamwa Tchatchoua to a season-ending injury, Baylor may struggle against teams that play fast-paced, including North Carolina, who has a 70.1 AdjT.

If the Tar Heels can get through Baylor, the team that poses the biggest threat to the Heels is Kentucky. It seems like Kentucky is under seeded and probably could have taken the one seed from Baylor. The Wildcats rank third in KenPom rankings, including a 120.2 AdjO, which could spell a lot of trouble for Carolina.

north carolina basketball
Credit: Bob Donnan/USA Today Sports

How Far Can North Carolina Basketball Go in the NCAA Tournament?

How Far Could they Go?

I am not lying when I say this, but North Carolina has the potential to be the champion this year. The narrative surrounding the Tar Heels has been their inconsistency, especially against ranked teams. Early in the season, Carolina dropped back-to-back games to Purdue and Tennessee in a tournament. Davis’ squad features a starting lineup of stars. Caleb Love, RJ Davis, Leaky Black, Brady Manek and Armando Bacot, may be the Heels’ best starting lineup since the 2016-17 championship team.

This team has been plagued by stretches of sloppy play all year. This sloppy play has contributed to losses, i.e Pittsburgh. All in all though, the catalyst of this team is Love. If he is playing well, the Tar Heels are playing well. You know what you are going to get from Bacot and Black, but Love and Manek are wild cards. North Carolina is a team that scores 77.5 points per game and averages just short of 40 rebounds a game. If the Tar Heels get hot from the three-point line, there might not be a team that can beat them.

A Final Four appearance is not out of the realm of possibility.

How Far Will they Go?

Much like the Wisconsin Badgers, North Carolina is a little bit of a wildcard. When Caleb Love and Brady Manek are playing well, not many teams in the country can beat UNC. With Bacot being one of the best big men in the country, they should be able to exploit matchups very easily. That starts with Marquette. Bacot should dominate this game in the paint, as Marquette does not feature a strong big man.

That sets up a matchup with Baylor. This is one of the most enticing upset opportunities on the bracket. With Baylor’s multitude of injuries and somewhat inconsistent play, Bacot and Love should be able to exploit the team. Baylor is a one seed for a reason though, and KenPom has them ranked as the fifth-best team in the country, with the ninth and 14th-best offense and defense, respectfully.

It seems likely that if the Tar Heels can get by Marquette, then Baylor is probably the ending line. If Carolina can somehow get by Baylor, this team could make a magical run. If this is the case, it seems likely that they would fall to Kentucky in the Elite Eight. North Carolina has Final Four talent, but they play too much like a round of 32 team.

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