The North Carolina Tarheel basketball team’s loss against the Virginia Cavaliers on Thursday, March 9 almost certainly drained away any chance that the Tarheels would make the NCAA Men’s Basketball Tournament – and have an opportunity to make another surprise run to the Final Four like the one last year.

Before the game, many college basketball bracketology experts said the Tarheels had to win the ACC Tournament and get the automatic bid in order to make it to the NCAA Tournament. Some said making it to the finals of the ACC Tournament would do the trick, but virtually no commentators had UNC being a NCAA Tournament selection if they lost to Virginia, which they did 68 to 59.

As soon as the game was over, ESPN’s Joe Lunardi, considered one of the foremost experts on the matter, stated flatly that the Tarheels would not be going to the tournament.  One analytical model did give the Tarheels a 19 percent chance after the loss.

The 2022-2023 season was a stunning turnabout from the previous one when a  UNC caught fire at the end of the season and beat Duke for Coach Mike Krzyzewski’s last game at Cameron Indoor Stadium.  A few weeks later, UNC ended Coach K’s career, handing him a loss in the 2022 Final Four in New Orleans when the coach was close to writing a storybook ending by winning a sixth National Championship.

The Tarheels lost in the finals in 2022 but were the preseason number one pick for the 2022-2023 season. At the start of the season, it would have been almost incomprehensible that the team wouldn’t be invited to the tournament.

Nothing will be known with certainty until Sunday evening when the official selections are made, so some hopeful Tarheel fans are wishing that the team’s name recognition and crowd-drawing powers will help them slip into the mix somehow.