North Carolina had already lost more games than any other AP Preseason No. 1 team.
Now the underachieving Tar Heels are on the verge of making some more embarrassing history.
A 68-59 loss to Virginia in the ACC quarterfinals on Thursday night ended North Carolina’s hopes of earning a massive NCAA tournament bid. The Tar Heels have run out of chances to polish up a resume that can’t be compared to other bubble teams.
North Carolina will enter Selection Sunday with a 20-13 overall record and a lack of a marquee win. The Tar Heels are just 1-9 in Quadrant 1 games, with their lone win coming on February 25 at home against Virginia.
While North Carolina did beat Michigan and Ohio State in non-conference play, those victories seemed more helpful in December than they do now. The Wolverines are likely on the wrong side of the NCAA tournament bubble and the Buckeyes finish second to last in the Big Ten.
After North Carolina lost their regular season finale to rival Duke, the Tar Heels entered the ACC Tournament needing a deep run to maintain realistic hope of earning an NCAA bid. They defeated 10th-seeded Boston College 85–61 in their opening game, but second-seeded Virginia jumped out to a 10-point lead midway through the second half and defended every North Carolina run thereafter.
While bally hood college basketball teams underachieve every season, North Carolina is easily the most disappointing preseason No. 1 team in the modern era of men’s college basketball.
Every other preseason No. 1 seed has made the NCAA tournament since the field expanded to 64 in 1985. About two-thirds of those teams have earned No. 1 seeds, and all but three have earned No. 3 seeds or better. Only in 2013–14 did Kentucky fail to clinch at least a No. 5 seed, and those Julius Randle-led Wildcats made a run from anywhere from a No. 8 seed to the national title game in the regular season.
The absence of the NCAA tournament in North Carolina would have been hard to fathom just a few months ago. With all the starters returning from last year’s national runner-up and a prized transfer filling that vacancy, the Tar Heels seemed ready to pick up where they left off last year, when they stomped Mike Krzyzewski in the Final Four. Had ended his career and almost won. national title two nights later.
What went wrong for North Carolina? In a word, everything.
The solidarity and hunger that the Tar Heels showed last March has disappeared. The pieces didn’t even seem to be forged. Armando Bacot remained one of college basketball’s top big men and Leakey Black was still an elite glue guy, but the 3-point shooting and toughness of North Carolina’s Brady Manek and the streak-shooting of Caleb Love and RJ Davis gave the Tar Heels Got kicked out of a lot of games. ,
North Carolina shot just a little over 31% from behind the arc this season, which is 322nd in the nation. northwest transfers Pete Nance didn’t even come close to duplicating Maneck’s dependable 40.3% 3-point shooting.
A year ago, North Carolina plunged into a deep bubble in February, before catching fire for the next six weeks. Many were waiting for a similar run to end the season, but these Tar Heels didn’t have it.