How can UNC lock up a No. 1 seed in the Big Dance?


North Carolina’s Wednesday victory over Louisville sets the stage for the Tar Heels to repeat as ACC regular-season champs. UNC holds a two-game lead in the standings over four teams — Louisville, Duke, Florida State, and Notre Dame — with just three games left.

The Tar Heels still have to play at Virginia and Pitt, and they host Duke on March 4. But if UNC can win just one of its last three, they will get at least a share of first place.

Following the win over the Cardinals, ESPN bracketologist Joe Lunardi listed the Tar Heels as the No. 1 seed in the South Region. CBS Sports did as well.

Ryan Fagan of The Sporting News projected the Tar Heels as a No. 1 seed prior to the Louisville game. According to Fagan, one-sided victories over NC State and Virginia were enough to move Carolina up.

UNC’s RPI rating moved up to No. 3 following the Louisville win — perfectly positioning the Heels for a top seed. ranks UNC No. 4 nationally, behind only Gonzaga, Villanova and West Virginia.

Only Kansas, the likely top seed in the Midwest, and defending national champion Villanova have a higher RPI than the Tar Heels. Those two schools, along with undefeated Gonzaga, are the three schools widely projected to join UNC as the four top seeds.

One reliable way for UNC to secure a No. 1 seed is to win the outright ACC regular-season crown. Since 2006, seven ACC schools that won outright or shared the regular-season title have gone on to win the ACC Tournament.

Six — Duke in 2006 and 2010, UNC in 2007, 2008 and 2016, and Virginia in 2014 — went on to earn a No. 1 seed. The only outlier is Miami, which in 2013 earned a No. 2 seed in the East Region.

Winning both the ACC regular season and tournament would virtually guarantee the Heels a one-seed.