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Analysis: Should UNC women's basketball host a regional in the 2023 NCAA Tournament?

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UNC women's basketball head coach Courtney Banghart offers junior guard Deja Kelly (25) a fist bump during the team's second-round matchup against Clemson in the 2023 ACC Tournament in Greensboro, N.C. UNC won 68-58.

At UNC’s ‘Live Action with Carolina Basketball’ event in October, North Carolina women's basketball head coach Courtney Banghart donned a white quarter zip jacket to symbolize her goal for the season.

“We’re wearing white tonight because we're gonna host the first two rounds (of the NCAA Tournament) at Carmichael,” she said.

The North Carolina women's basketball team hasn’t hosted an NCAA Tournament game since 2015. And Banghart thinks it’s time to change that. In her mind, she doesn't have to lobby to host the tournament — the numbers speak for themselves.

The argument for a Chapel Hill regional lies in UNC’s strength of schedule. Fourty-two percent of the Tar Heels’ opponents this season were ranked top-25 in the NET — the NCAA’s evaluation tool used to evaluate a team’s record and resume. 

UNC is ranked top 12 in the nation when it comes to the average opponent NET ranking — higher than AP No. 1 South Carolina — and the Tar Heels are 6-7 against teams in the NET top-25. With the exception of the loss on the road at Indiana and the overtime loss to N.C. State, the rest were single-digit losses.

“I remember when I was at Princeton, I was always like, ‘Why aren’t we getting more (attention)?’ but my schedule was really different back then, right,” Banghart said following UNC's 44-40 loss to Duke in the ACC Tournament quarterfinals. “I was like, ‘Come on, we’re 28-4,’ and then I’d look at how many games I won in the top 25 and I was like, ‘Well, I guess it makes sense.'"

Banghart said it changes a game if a few shots go a different way. But, in tough battles, she said the team looks healthy. 

Although the Tar Heels were one of the five teams that eliminated a host last season when they knocked off Arizona in Tucson, hosting a regional is a sure-fire bet to make it to the second weekend, as nearly 70 percent of top-four seeds made it out of their own regional in 2022. 

North Carolina certainly doesn't need to host in order to be successful. But, considering the home-crowd boost it would give the team — and the 13-2 record the Tar Heels hold at home this season — it would certainly make advancing easier.


UNC fans watch the 2023 ACC Tournament second-round game between North Carolina women's basketball and Clemson in Greensboro, N.C. UNC won 68-58.


More than just success in this year’s tournament, hosting a regional serves as validation of a team’s season. Considering UNC's strength of schedule and relative success, it’s reasonable to want a pat on the back.

Outside of the scope of one season, teams that host a regional once tend to make a habit of hosting multiple times. In this sense, it serves as a seal of approval for the program. 

The last time UConn didn't host a regional was the 1992-1993 season. The Gamecocks, who have been the top-drawing team in women’s college basketball since 2015, have been regional hosts since 2013. 

While Banghart has lofty goals for the program, during this week-long break, the Tar Heel players aren’t fretting over the location of their first two NCAA Tournament games. They’re just focused on doing all they can to win.

“I mean, I’m just looking to play basketball at the end of the day,” junior wing Kennedy Todd-Williams said on Friday. “It doesn’t matter if I’m home, we play on the home court or are traveling.”

@shelbymswanson

@dthsports | sports@dailytarheel.com

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Shelby Swanson

Shelby Swanson is the 2023-24 sports editor at The Daily Tar Heel. She has previously served as an assistant sports editor and senior writer. Shelby is a junior pursuing a double major in media and journalism and Hispanic literatures and cultures.