Cunningham opened the show by saying he believed that UNC had played itself into a No. 6 seed with its late-season run and admitted that the 8-seed came as a surprise.
North Carolina won eight of its final 10 games and finished 17th in the RPI and eighth in the strength of schedule rankings.
Bobinski, the current Xavier athletic director set to assume the same role at Georgia Tech on Apr. 1, confirmed that UNC’s improvement down the stretch was seen as a positive and noted that the selection committee had some conversation about elevating UNC’s seed had it won the ACC Tournament championship.
So what factor outweighed the positives on UNC’s tournament resume?
“As you look at the season’s worth of work, there weren’t a preponderance of really, really high quality wins,” Bobinski said. “And I think that, more than anything, is what sort of was the deciding factor in how we ultimately seeded [UNC].”
UNC was slotted 29th on the selection committee’s seed list, cementing the Tar Heels as the top 8-seed.
North Carolina was 2-8 against RPI top-50 opponents. Seven of the eight teams slotted on the 6-7 seed lines had four or more RPI top-50 wins. The lone remaining team from that group was No. 6 seed Memphis, which was 3-3 against top-50 opponents. The Tigers, however, were 9-1 on the road with three wins against top-100 teams.
UNC posted a 6-6 road record this season with its best win coming at Maryland (No. 71 RPI).
“It’s an absolute statistically proven fact that winning at home is just much more prevalent and much easier,” Bobinski said. “And if you’re willing and able to not always play games in the friendly confines of your own environment, to really take it on the road and then ultimately be successful on the road, it really to me gives a very strong indication of who you are as a team and the quality that you might bring to this tournament.”
Bobinski indicated that of all other factors are equal, then he looks at road play as a separator.
The selection committee chairman also discussed UNC’s opening weekend destination – Kansas City.
When asked if any considerations were given to the Roy Williams-Kansas angle, Bobinski replied: “Zero.”
“We never predict matchups,” he continued. “We don’t try and make matchups. We don’t look down the road. That’s for everybody else to do when the bracket’s done. With the speed that this thing comes at us, we don’t have the ability to sit there, nor do the principles and procedures allow us to cook the bracket and concoct matchups that might be interesting or have some personal angle to it. We just don’t do that.”
Bobinski explained the coincidence by detailing the selection process. Miami, the top No. 2 seed, ended up in the East Region due to its proximity to Washington, D.C., host of the regional. Duke, the second No. 2 seed, went to the next closest region in Indianapolis (Midwest).
Citing selection procedures, Bobinski indicated that the first three teams selected from a conference must be placed in different regions. Therefore the committee decided to put UNC in the South Region – in the same bracket with No. 1 seed Kansas – instead of shipping the Tar Heels out west to Los Angeles.
The next step involved early round sites and, according to Bobinski, the only site remaining at that point in time was Kansas City.
“It was really luck of the draw that you ended up in the bracket with Kansas,” Bobinski told Cunningham and Angell. “It wasn’t by design.”
Williams was critical of the selection committee only inviting four ACC teams in a statement on Sunday evening. Bobinski, however, stressed that the committee doesn’t segment the population by conference.
“We don’t ever look at a conference and say, ‘Boy, that conference isn’t very good this year,’” Bobinski said. “We pick apart every team, regardless of where they’re from, we pick apart their schedule piece-by-piece and look at the quality of the teams they played in and out of their conference schedule and look at them each as independents.”
The Tar Heels open NCAA Tournament play against No. 9 seed Villanova on Friday at 7:20pm ET.
"College Athletics Today" airs Monday evenings on UNC's flagship station (WCHL 1360AM/97.9FM).