On Saturday in the regular-season finale, North Carolina dropped the ball on a much-needed opportunity as the Tar Heels fell at home to arch-rival Duke 62-57. The second loss of the season to the rival Blue Devils means that last year's national runner-up is now 1-9 against Quad 1 opposition on the campaign and staring down the very real chance they won't get the chance to make another magical run in March.
The only team to earn an at-large bid to the NCAA Tournament with just one win in at least 10 Quad 1 chances was Michigan State in 2004, and the Spartans were also 1-9 against Quad 1 opponents. Michigan State's schedule that year ranked in the top 25, while UNC's strength of schedule was 51st entering the regular-season finale on Saturday.
There's also a slight chance that the lone Quad 1 win residing on the Tar Heels' resume will not be one come Sunday. Virginia entered Saturday ranked 30th in NET, which is the right on the dividing line of Quad 1 and Quad 2 team. The Cavaliers beat Louisville by 15, which could cause them to fall because the Cardinals have been playing so poorly this season.
ACC Tournament is crucial for North Carolina
With hope dwindling even more after the Duke loss, North Carolina needs at least one more Quad 1 win to have a chance for an at-large bid. The good news is that the conference tournament is played on a neutral court, which means that the standard for opponents to qualify as Quad 1 is top 50 of the NET. As of Saturday morning, Miami and NC State would join Virginia and Duke as Quad 1 opponents on a neutral court, so the Tar Heels may have more opportunities ahead. The first one will not come before the ACC quarterfinal, though, so some early work needs to be done.
It's not too late for coach Hubert Davis' squad just yet. But the sun is starting to set on North Carolina's at-large hopes.