Virginia handed North Carolina a 75-60 loss tonight, the Tar Heels' fifth in seven games and third straight in Chapel Hill.
The setback also means UNC is 13-8 on the season and 2-4 in the ACC with difficult road trips to Virginia Tech and Maryland coming this week.
The Tar Heels last missed the NCAA field in 2002 and 2003, when Matt Doherty was the coach. The back-to-back absences led to Roy Williams' arrival at the start of the 2003-04 campaign. UNC hasn't missed since.
That streak of six straight tournaments looks set to end, especially if the Tar Heels' play like they did tonight. All of the typical issues that have cost North Carolina games this season were evident against the Cavaliers: poor shooting (35.7 percent from the floor and 50 percent from the line), unforced errors (17 turnovers compared to 20 field goals and 11 assists) and poor defense (Virginia shot nearly 52 percent from the field).
If those statistics don't improve, and Williams doesn't get more from his veterans, including the still hurting Ed Davis, Marcus Ginyard and Deon Thompson, Tar Heel fans had better get ready to start filling the Dean Dome for NIT games.
In my bracket tomorrow, the Tar Heels will be hanging on as an 11, thanks to the presence of early wins over Michigan State and Ohio State. Don't expect to see them next week, though, especially if teams like the Cavaliers and Big East surprise package USF continue to win league games.
Read more at our UNC blog, Carolina March.