For the North Carolina men’s basketball team, life on the NCAA Tournament bubble can be defined by a simple statement: to get in, you don’t have to beat the best — you just have to outdo the rest.
And on Saturday, UNC did just that. Coming off their first truly bad loss of the season — a nine-point home loss to sub-.500 Pitt — the Tar Heels traveled to fellow bubble team Virginia Tech’s house and earned, on-paper, their best win of the season.
It was UNC 65, Virginia Tech 57.
With Michigan’s season flying through wild loops and turns, North Carolina’s home victory against the Wolverines is not currently a Quad 1 win, according to the NCAA’s NET rankings. So, Saturday’s win — against a Quad 1 Hokies team on their home court — was the first, and may have provided the Tar Heels with the push they need for Selection Sunday.
Junior forward Armando Bacot has been in this position before. Just a year ago, North Carolina’s dreams of Madness came down to a few weeks at the beginning of March, and eventually slipped into the tourney as an eight seed.
“Man, last year was terrible,” Bacot said. “Hopefully it won’t be like that this year though. Hopefully, we get to experience a lot of North Carolina fans and make a deep run and have some fun.”
In a vacuum, it might be surprising that UNC would lose to one of the worst teams in the ACC, then beat an NCAA Tournament hopeful in that same week. But such oddity has come to be expected for this year’s roster.
Before Wednesday, the Tar Heels had no truly ‘bad’ losses on their resumé; that is, losses to opponents with no chance of earning a bid to the big dance. But with three McDonald’s All-Americans and a barrage of four- and five-star talents in Carolina blue, are 28-point losses to Miami and Wake Forest not bad?
But inconsistency has certainly become consistent this season. It’s a trend that head coach Hubert Davis hopes to see wane in the latter stages of the season.