With Cole Anthony coming back, the Tar Heels have some buzz as the team will have its unquestioned best player back in the lineup. With this news, the Tar Heels get a lot better as a team and after struggling for a lot of the season, some are asking the question of whether or not they can make the NCAA Tournament. While their resume right now is not even close to resembling an NIT team, much less an NCAA Tournament team, they could potentially make a run late in the season that could change this fact.
Let’s start out by looking at their resume as it stands right now. Let’s start out with the good because there is some good there. They have wins against Oregon and Alabama, both those wins came with Cole Anthony on the court and both wins are looking really good right now, while their recent win against NC State is their third quadrant 1 win. The main problem with their resume though is that they are 2-4 against Quadrant 3 opponents, while all those losses are without Cole Anthony, it still will be held against them come Selection Sunday. The Tar Heels are also 10-10 as a team and ranked 94th in the NET which is not good at the moment, however, they do have time to improve upon that.
Looking at the rest of their schedule, they have 11 games left in the regular season, in addition to at least a game in the ACC Tournament. In those games, they will face Duke twice, while playing on the road at both Louisville and Florida State, all of these games are against quadrant 1A teams. As well as a few other opportunities to pick up quadrant Virginia, NC State, at Syracuse, and at Notre Dame, all of these opportunities will be at least a quadrant 2 opportunity. This means they will have eight more chances to pick up what would be a resume-boosting win. While the resume is far from good right now, they will have an opportunity to pick up some quality wins going forward.
While the addition of Cole Anthony obviously comes with some extra benefits from a playing perspective, they still are going to need to go out and win games. They have four opportunities for a signature win in ACC play, they probably need to at least win one of those games. In addition to that, they will need to go through playing the rest of that schedule without losing too many games that they aren’t supposed to lose, whether it be Virginia or NC State at home, or even against Boston College. Losing too many of those games will dramatically hurt their chances for an at-large bid. Additionally, winning a couple of games in the ACC Tournament would go a long way towards helping them get into the field.
My hypothetical scenario for North Carolina to make the NCAA Tournament would look something like this: Lose road games at Duke, Louisville, Syracuse, and Syracuse. Win the rest of their regular-season games, which includes beating Duke at home for their signature win, beating Virginia and NC State at home, while they avoid losing too many more games after that. Additionally, they would probably need to win a game in the ACC Tournament, before bowing out to one of the Big Three in the ACC. If they are able to do that they would be 18-15, with 7 of their losses coming while Cole Anthony was not healthy. In addition, they would have maybe 4 or 5 quadrant 1 wins on their resume as well and while they probably have a lower NET ranking, it wouldn’t be awful enough to where they don’t make the NCAA Tournament. Assuming this hypothetical situation takes place, there is a 100 percent chance North Carolina makes the NCAA Tournament.