Why UNC is squarely on the bubble

Roy Williams' North Carolina Tar Heels are only 3-3 in ACC play so far this season. Grant Halverson/Getty Images

North Carolina was ranked No. 11 in the nation in the AP preseason poll, and before you go blaming those silly voters for overrating Roy Williams' young team, bear in mind that computer rating systems liked the Tar Heels, too (albeit not quite as much). Whether your laptop of choice belonged to Ken Pomeroy (who pegged UNC a preseason No. 15) or Dan Hanner (No. 26), it's fair to say a rough consensus emerged from the traditional polls and the computer ranking systems: North Carolina was likely going to be good enough to be ranked, just not in the top 10.

That consensus doesn't look so good at the end of January.

The Heels are just 13-6 overall, and they've started ACC play 3-3. True, the schedule's about to give Carolina a break, and indeed it's possible that "3-3" could transform into "6-3" in relatively short order. But projecting what UNC's record is going to look like in a week or two is not the question at hand. The real question is what this team's record will be on March 17, when the NCAA selects the field for its tournament.

In his latest projection, my colleague Joe Lundardi has North Carolina safely in the field as a No. 9 seed, but that bracket was put together before the Heels won at home against Georgia Tech and lost on the road to NC State. In terms of the "quality wins" that the selection committee likes to see, Carolina has just two victories against potential at-large teams (versus UNLV and Maryland), and both of those games were played in Chapel Hill. That's a start, but the phrase "still has work to do" most certainly applies here.