ESPN Bracketology says No. 15 North Carolina may start NCAA Tournament on the road

CHAPEL HILL, N.C. – If the NCAA Selection Committee comes to the same conclusion as ESPN Bracketology analyst Charlie Creme, the 15th-ranked North Carolina Tar Heels may begin play in the 2015 NCAA Women’s Basketball Championship Tournament away from home.

The Tar Heels await an at-large bid to the Tournament, sitting with a 24-8 record.

Though they’ve won six of their last 10 games, the Tar Heels’ losses in those games all came to top-25 teams in the ACC – No. 10 Louisville twice, No. 16 Duke (second game of season series), and then No. 25 Syracuse.

A few games prior to that, they lost in overtime to Duke in the two teams’ first game of the season series.

Losing three-of-five games, albeit close ones, to lower-seeded teams (Duke, Syracuse) coupled with two losses to Louisville, including a 77-75 heartbreaker in the ACC Tournament semifinal, may or may not be held against North Carolina.

It all depends, and how so could make the difference whether they host First and Second round games Mar. 20-23, or not.

According to Creme, who has been putting together the season progression of what the Tournament field will look like for the past 12 years, Duke is projected to host as a 3-seed.

However, for Triangle-area fans supporting the school farther South along 15/501, they may not get the luxury of cheering for their team in the Tournament at Carmichael Arena.

That is, for now.

As of Sunday, according to ESPN’s Bracketology, North Carolina is projected as a 5-seed in the Spokane Regional to begin play in Lexington, Ky., facing  Quinnipiac, the MAAC champion, along with projected 4-seed Kentucky facing Wichita State, the MVC champion.

In a conference call on Wednesday, Creme provided his rationale of where the Tar Heels currently sit in the bracket.

“I think Carolina was there,” Creme said.

“I don’t think it was just the finish in the ACC Tournament. They slumped a little bit towards the end of the season, just in general. The two losses against Duke don’t help when you’re putting teams together in groups. That’s only one aspect, one piece. If you’re looking at a group of teams, there is some commonality that playing each other. Now you’ve got North Carolina with two in the loss column against one of those teams, they’re going to put them a little bit lower on the pecking order. That’s what happened. They just started to get a little squeezed out. They didn’t really win one big game in the last month of the season. They had opportunities to play the upper echelon teams in the ACC and they never came out on top. So that’s what kind of pushed North Carolina down. Both can certainly be hosts. I just don’t think North Carolina quite has earned it. If we’re talking about host bubble teams, North Carolina will be right near the top of that list of the first couple of teams out (of hosting). I don’t think it’s out of the realm of possibility if the committee saw it ever so slightly different than I did. I had North Carolina at 18th. Maybe when the committee votes they see it just enough to put North Carolina 16. That’s all it takes – the difference in being ranked 16th or 18th – whether they’re going to get games or not. That’s what makes those decisions by the committee, maybe the most important of the entire process.”

North Carolina will find out whether to roll out the carpet or pack its bags soon after the NCAA Women’s Basketball Championship Selection airs on Monday at 7 p.m. on ESPN.