Tar Heels road to the Final Four

Selection Sunday is here and North Carolina have been given the #8 seed in the South Region. After a 14-19 season and a cancelled NCAA Tournament last year, it feels so good to just be going to the dance (Where’s Dook?). The question is how long are UNC dancing for?

This is the fourth time that UNC is a #8 seed in the NCAA Tournament (1990, 2000, 2013, 2021). They reached the Sweet 16 in 1990, upsetting #1 seed Oklahoma along the way. They reached the final four in 2000, beating #1 seed Stanford. UNC lost to Kansas in Round of 32 in 2013.

We all love a Cinderella Story. A ‘What If’ Story. A March Miracle. North Carolina in the NCAA Tournament 2021 Final Four… could they?! They would have to go through quite a tough field of teams to get there if so.

Tar Heel fans have grown accustomed to some great performances over the past month and the team has given many a fan that slight bit of hope for UNC’s chances in the tournament. The fans know that UNC are an underdog team this year and some real madness would have to happen for them to have a big run*.

* check out 1985 NCAA Tournament.

North Carolina have really come into their stride as of late and it would be a March Miracle if they made the Final Four. Let’s have a look at some of the teams that would likely come in their way if their season went that far.

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ROUND OF 64

The North Carolina Tar Heels first match up is the Wisconsin Badgers. Some might remember UNC facing the Badgers in 2015 with Frank ‘The Tank’ Kaminksy and Sam Dekker leading the #1 Wisconsin over UNC in the Sweet Sixteen. This current Wisconsin Team is nowhere near as strong.

Wisconsin are 17-12 for the season and 9-10 in a packed Big 10 Conference. The Badgers have only won one game out of their last five and that was a 1pt victory over Penn State. They are not riding on a momentum wave, that is for sure!

Last time the Heels faced the Badgers was in 2016/17 season, when Joel Berry’s 22 points helped knock down Wisconsin in a non-conference match in our NCAA Championship winning season.

Coach Williams is 29-0 in the first round of the NCAA Tournament, I see that going to 30 this year.

ROUND OF 32

Baylor Bears are one of the most dominating teams in the country. A record of 22-2 and 13-1 clinching the Big 12 Regular Season Conference, only to recently slip up to potential number 1 pick in the NBA Draft, Cade Cunningham, and Oklahoma State in the Big 12 Tournament Final.

Baylor are led by Juniors Jared Butler (17.12 PPG) and Davion Mitchell (14.21 PPG) both recently awarded in the All-Big 12 First Team.

The Bears are not the tallest team, so UNC could end up dominating the offensive boards and we have seen them do this to many teams this year. Although Davion Mitchell is the reigning Defensive Player of the Year, meaning our young backcourt is going to really have to look after that ball.

To give you hope Tar Heel fans, check out the 1990 and 2000 season when UNC were an #8 seed… they both upset the #1 seeds.

SWEET SIXTEEN

Hey, if we do pull off a March Miracle!!!

We could end up facing Villanova Wildcats and yes Tar Heel fans, UNC has not played Villanova since 2016. How poetic would it be to come up against them again, yes we had our ‘Redemption Year’, but still those feelings of hurt are still there.

Villanova are 16-6 and 11-4 in the Big East. They’re currently on a two game loss streak though, falling out of their end of season tournament. Two Villanova players shared the Big East Player of the Year awards, alongside Seton Hall’s Mamukelashvili.

Reigning Player of the Years, Jeremiah Robinson-Earl and Collin Gillespie have been Villanova’s top two scorers. Villanova won the regular-season title with an 11-4 league record. Gillespie recently had a season ending injury last week so will miss the tournament. Robinson-Earl is one of the candidates for National Player of the Year.

Again, if UNC make it this far I expect them to dominate the boards with UNC averaging 44 RPG and Wildcats at 33 RPG. Hey, it could happen!

ELITE EIGHT

Ohio State Buckeyes have played this year in a stacked division with some 2021 powerhouses; Illinois, Michigan, Iowa and Purdue. Still picking up a #2 seed in the South Region is impressive.

The Buckeyes have been led by Sophomore EJ Liddell, who was part of the team when UNC last played Ohio State in 2019/20 season, with a 74-49 horrible loss for the Tar Heels. Liddell was chosen for the All-Big Ten First Team.

Ohio State had a difficult end of February with a four game loss streak, but then came back with two huge wins over Purdue and #1 seeded Michigan. Ohio State has played some tough teams this year, when UNC’s hardest challenge in the ACC was probably Virginia. Really not on the same level.

This would be a very tough challenge, but in March… anyone is one bad shooting night away from leaving the tournament.

FINAL FOUR

#1 seed in the Midwest Region is Illinois Fighting Illini and are led by Ayo Dosumnu and Kofi Cockburn who were awarded All-Big Ten First Team as well. Their region does have Oklahoma State, West Virginia and Houston so anyone could really come out of the region to the Final Four, but Illinois would be seen as favourites at #1 seed.

Ayo Dosumnu is a top candidate for National Player of the Year with his 20.88 PPG in his junior season and a real challenge to the predicted winner Luka Garza (in my opinion, Garza should take it!).

Obviously we have a nice memory against Illinois and beating them in the 2005 National Championship Game. Still, UNC has lost the past two games against Illinois.

If we ever got this far, this Illinois team is a problem.

Okay, I am obviously getting ahead of myself, but it is fun to see what the road is for UNC to get to the Final Four.

Do I actually think the Tar Heels will make a run in March? Join the ESPN Tournament Challenge below to find out.

What is your prediction for UNC in the NCAA Tournament?

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Finally…

Follow on Twitter at @georgewharmer for updates on Current Tar Heels, Pro Tar Heels with a close eye on the Tar Heels Overseas.

One thought on “Tar Heels road to the Final Four

  1. KenPom rankings of the 9 seeds:

    Wisconsin #10 in KenPom
    St. Bonaventure #25 in KenPom
    Georgia Tech #32 in KenPom
    Missouri #51 in KenPom

    Very tough (and inexcusable on the committee’s part) draw for the Heels;

    Like

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