NCAA Seeding

What impact does UNC losing to Duke have on the eventual NCAA Tournament seeding?

Since we live in an instant information age with mock brackets being produced every other day and RPI rankings that change by the hour in some cases, the speculation runs pretty hot concerning who will be the #1 seed in the NCAA Tournament.  Among the various storylines attached to the UNC-Duke game was how this game would impact the selection of either team as a #1 seed, especially in the East Regional which would be a Raleigh-Charlotte path to the Final Four.  Since Duke won, they have been slated as having the “inside track” to the top seed in the East basically relegating UNC to the #2 seed. Let me say that this would only be true if the tournament started today.  The truth of the matter is, based on history the Wednesday game actually did not mean that much of all.

First of all, because Ty Lawson did not play, the game on Wednesday actually meant more to Duke than it did UNC.  Why? Because a Duke loss to a UNC team missing Ty Lawson would draw more attention from the committee than a UNC team without Lawson losing to Duke.  The Blue Devils losing to a Lawson-less UNC team would be more damaging to Duke since it is perceived they would be playing a short handed Tar Heel squad.  Conversely, because UNC is short handed it can be argued that Duke maintained the status quo by winning.  In others words Duke beating UNC only elevates them slightly above UNC based on the head-to-head victory but even that win is tempered by the fact UNC was missing a vital cog.

Secondly, there is boatload of evidence that the committee is more interested in the second Duke-UNC game and beyond that extremely interested in the result of the ACC Tournament.  In 1991, UNC was swept by Duke in the regular season but beat the Devils in the ACC Championship by 20+.  End result: UNC is seeded #1 in the East and Duke is sent to the Midwest as a #2.  During the 1997 season UNC finished tied for second with Wake Forest at 11-5 one game behind Duke.  UNC beat the Devils in the season finale after losing the first game to them.  The Heels win the ACC Tournament after Duke is beaten in the quarterfinals.  The result is UNC gets the #1 in the East and Duke is #2 in the Midwest.  In 1998, UNC wins the first game at Chapel Hill, loses to NC State along the way and then drops a game at Cameron to finish 13-3 in the ACC, two games behind 15-1 Duke.  UNC then wins the ACC title beating Duke by 15 and the committee makes both teams #1 seeds but gives UNC the favorable East Regional which went through Greensboro.  Duke was forced to play in Tampa and lost to Kentucky.  The 2001 season saw UNC beat Duke in the first game but the Devils win in Chapel Hill and win the ACC Tournament.  The result was a #1 seed for Duke and UNC slated at #2. In 2005, UNC loses to Duke the first time and wins the second time to win the ACC regular season.  Duke finishes 3rd at 11-5 behind 13-3 Wake Forest.  After Wake loses to NCSU and UNC loses in the semifinals to Geogia Tech, Duke wins the ACC Tournament.  Both teams ends up with #1 seeds with UNC getting the favorable regional.  And last season UNC finishes tied for first with UVa but snags a #1 seed because it ends up winning the ACC Tournament.
The bottom line is, the first game means nothing to the committee.  It does, in some respects, reduce the margin of error for one team.  However, if the committee is stuck trying to decided between UNC or Duke for a single #1 seed(which is the likely scenario) what happens in the second game in addition to the ACC Tournament matters.  For UNC, the path to the #1 seed in the East goes like this: Don’t lose again.  Well, that is a little simplistic.  I think UNC has to win the game at Cameron on March 8th.  And if UNC goes into their full strength and wins, it not only trumps the first loss but completely devalues it altogether since UNC will have proven they are the better team with Lawson playing.  If that happens then UNC only needs to do better than Duke at the ACC Tournament.  So if Duke loses on Saturday, UNC needs to make it to Sunday.  If they both lose on Saturday, then I think UNC still gets an edge based on the previous week’s win but there is also a chance they both end up #2 seeds if that happens.  Then again the simplest of all scenarios is if they meet in the ACC Championship, the winner gets the #1 seed in the East while the loser hopes someone else has stumbled enough to have the committee feeling generous enough to award the ACC a second #1 seed.  Since there is zero ACC representation on the committee this season, that does not seem likely to happen.

So there it is.  UNC still controls it’s own destiny and it would be immensely helpful if Duke could lose another game or two along the way.  That does not seem likely but then again, one has to believe Duke is due to hit a cold stretch of shooting like the one they had going into and coming out of their 16 day break around Christmas.  UNC needs to get Lawson healthy and spend the next seven game meshing as a cohesive playing unit before taking on Duke again.   It was 1982 the last time a Raleigh-Charlotte path to the Final Four was out there for the taking and it would be great if the Heels could start and finish that same path they way they did 26 years ago.

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7 Responses to NCAA Seeding

  1. Stuart Crampton says:

    What does Seth Davis know! (Hopefully nothing on this one)…

    http://sportsillustrated.cnn.com/2008/writers/seth_davis/02/08/fiveforfriday/index.html
    Clemson (17-5) at No. 3 UNC (21-2) One unfortunate side effect from the ACC’s dropping its double round-robin format is that Clemson now only plays at North Carolina every other year. This is noteworthy because the Tigers have never won in Chapel Hill in 52 tries, which ties an NCAA record for the longest road losing streak to a team. But all streaks were meant to be broken, right? So get ready for a shocker. Clemson should feel confident after coming so close to knocking off the Tar Heels at home on Jan. 6 before losing in overtime. The difference here is Tywon Lawson, who had 16 points and eight assists in 36 minutes in that game, might not play this time because of a sprained ankle. You saw in the Heels’ loss to Duke how much of a difference that makes. What’s more, in James Mays and Trevor Booker, Clemson, unlike Duke, has some genuine inside muscle to throw at Tyler Hansbrough. The Tigers need to do a better job defending Wayne Ellington, who scored a career-high 36 points in the first meeting, but Ellington shot the ball very poorly in the loss to Duke. The Tar Heels could still win the national title, but they’re hurting right now and it’s possible — finally — for them to lose to Clemson at home.
    Clemson 78, North Carolina 77

  2. Russell says:

    Heel must beat dook next game and win ACC Tourney to get #1 seed. End of story. Next.

  3. TxTarheel says:

    I don’t give a rat’s arse about NCAA seeding right now. There are 8 games left on the ACC slate & after that maybe 2-3 games in the ACC tourney. This team seems too comfortable with half-assing it at times, on defense in particular. If they don’t watch they’ll get shipped out West like the 1999 team, and we all know how that went. My cup remains half-full but let’s keep perspective on what’s in front & not what’s to come in mid-March.

  4. Tar Heel Fan says:

    I don’t think the two are mutually exclusive. UNC needs to get on the ball now in order to setup the tournament. The regular season does matter and you are correct. UNC needs to win 11 straight games to go into the tournament on the right foot.

  5. rbl says:

    We need to face the fact that Duke is almost a lock for a Number One seed, which gives them the luxury of playing in NC. Nevertheless, we still ahve a shot at doing some damage in this tournament.

    On the other hand, the Carolina women’s team almost surely will get a Number One seed and, hopefully, a favorable location. I understand there is more hype about the men’s team, but Sylvia Hatchell’s squad has an excellent chance of winning it all. As much as I was bothered by the loss to Duke by the men, I was equally elated by the women throttling the Dukies in Durham.

    While I hate – no, that’s not strong enough – losing to Duke, the Blue Devils simply outplayed and outhustled us. As much as I hate – there’s that word again – to say it, they deserved to win. It’s a bit seductive to think Lawson would have made the difference, and he may have, but I’m not sure he could have overcome the wide open looks we gave them, Duke’s hot shooting, and such flagrant errors as Thompson committing fouls, not once but twice, near the half-court line.

    In my opinion, we looked plain baaaad, and should thank the basketball gods it wasn’t worse. The good news is we have a chance at redemption, and we’d better take full advantage of it.

  6. Displaced Heel says:

    The bracket I saw had the #2 seed playing in NC, with dook (in mock bracketology) going to NY or some other place. The mock-up I saw had Heels seeded #2 and playing in Raleigh, etc.

  7. Tar Heel Fan says:

    Not completely sure but #1 and #2 seeds get assigned to pods close to home. That was the case in 2006 when UNC got screwed and made a #3 seed thus putting them in Dayton and Tenn got the #2 and the Greensboro pod. Now when that happened, conspiracy theories abounded that K had UNC shipped to Dayton to keep them out of the same pod. The reason being is when you buy NCAA tickets, it is a package for all the games and the fear was UNC fans would come to the Duke game and root against the Devils thus creating a hostile environment.

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