UNC Tar Heels Were College Basketball’s Preseason No. 1 | Now The Blue Blood Faces An Historic Low On The NCAA Tourney Bubble

The North Carolina Tar Heels are 19-12, and for most that would be considered a good season and a virtual lock to earn a spot in the NCAA Tournament. But it’s Carolina, one of the five original “Blue Blood” programs along with Kansas, Duke, Kentucky and UCLA. The Heels are fighting for their postseason lives this week at the ACC Tournament. Having underachieved all season, they may need to win their conference tourney to feel completely safe come Sunday’s NCAA Selection Show. 

For a team that was the preseason No. 1, this is shocking, and if they fail to make it into the tourney it will be the first time a preseason No. 1 failed to qualify for it since the field expanded to 64 teams in 1985. Now, with 68 invited, it would be an even bigger story if the Heels are indeed left out. 

Their fate will begin in earnest on Wednesday. Carolina, a No. 7 seed, will face the Boston College Eagles, winners over the Louisville Cardinals in the opening round on Tuesday.

What Happened With Four Starters Returning From Title Game Run?

The reason UNC was ranked No. 1 overall coming into the season is because they were returning 80 percent of the starting lineup in center Armando Bacot, the program’s career leader in double-doubles and rebounding, forward Leaky Black, and their dynamic backcourt of RJ Davis and Caleb Love.

Those four players combine to average nearly 57 of the UNCs 76 points per game. Transfer Pete Nance, the son of NBA legend Larry Nance has chipped in with 10 points and six rebounds per game, but he doesn’t provide the range shooting (32 percent from three) that Brady Manek did, which unlocked the entire offense. 

Manek, who ran out of eligibility, shot nearly 41 on threes last year. 

The 6-foot-10 sweet shooting, pick-and-pop player was a huge reason for the team’s surprising run as an eighth-seed last year. His timely shooting and floor spacing opened driving lanes for Davis and Love.

Carolina Lacks Long Distance Shooting

Without Manek the Heels’ three-point shooting has dropped from 37 percent as a team last season to barely 31 percent this season. And all the things it provided a year ago have been nullified this season. 

Following Saturday’s season finale home loss to archrival Duke, starting point guard R.J. Davis talked about the pressure that comes with the lofty expectations. 

“We knew since the beginning of the season,” Davis told reporters after Saturday’s game. “Just the expectations that we’re being upholded, just out there in the media, just the noise. … Sometimes you put too much stress on yourself and try to meet those expectations instead of just going out there and just play freely.”

Head coach Hubert Davis also mentioned that he believed the expectations weighed down on his team, and they went out and tried to repeat last year’s run every night instead of just taking it game by game. 

Now they’re fighting for their postseason lives in a season that was suppose to have them a shoe-in for March Madness. 

One Quad 1 Win All Season Doesn’t Help Matters 

Having one Quad 1 win all season, is never good, especially when you consider the success of the team. Kansas, the team UNC lost to in the NCAA final last season, leads the nation with 15. Also, the Jayhawks lost four of five starters and play in the toughest conference in the country. The same can’t be said for the Heels in an ACC that’s for all intents and purposes having a down year. A Quad 1 is a home win versus 1-30, neutral win versus 1-50 or away 1-75. 

A win over Boston College will be a beginning, but a win over UVA in the quarterfinals would do wonders and give them their second Quad 1 win.

The Heels have their work cut out for them, but they have the talent. Now they need to see it all come together over the next few weeks. A tall task when you consider they haven’t done it all season. Time for Hubert Davis to step it up.

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