The seeding belies the relative importance of Sunday's ACC Championship game to the two fanbases involved.
For North Carolina, there's an element of ho-hum here. After losing Tyler Zeller, Harrison Barnes, and Cody Marshall, anything this year was gravy, and the Tar Heels had a decent season - 12-6, third-place finish - and with Maryland knocking off Duke in the quarterfinals, there was no epic match-up with their bitter rivals in the conference tourney. With wins over Florida State and Maryland, they're now in their 32nd conference championship game. They're in the NCAA Tournament with a middle-tier seed no matter what happens Sunday.
For Miami, this is a brave new world. The Hurricanes have never appeared in an ACC Title Game, and a win would bring the program to unprecedented heights. They're outside contenders for a one-seed in the NCAA Tournament, and after winning their first ever regular season ACC Title, they now have a chance to get a first tournament title to go with it.
Those feelings are reflected at the various blogs for each team. From SB Nation's State of the U's recap of an 81-71 win over NC State in the semifinals behind 32 points from Durand Scott:
Every effort by the Wolfpack was vanquished by the Hurricanes effort and experience. And with that, Miami will play for their first ever ACC Tournament Championship!!!
State of the U's basketball bloggers also previewed today's final, with both saying they would rather have played Maryland - especially after an off-the-backboard alley-oop by Shane Larkin and Kenny Kadji in a regular season meeting between UNC and Miami that might have rubbed the Tar Heels the wrong way.
This is a no pressure game for UNC other than the standard pressure that flows from being in a title game. Miami, being the #1 seed and regular season champion has much more to lose in this contest that UNC has. There is also the element of it being the program's first appearance in the title game and grabbing a piece of history in bringing home the Hurricanes first ACC Championship. The Heels on the other hand, can play loose but motivated. Revenge for the regular season losses and finally getting a win over a "good team" i.e. a team sitting above their tier would be a nice boost heading into the NCAA Tournament.
In a review of their win over Maryland -- "probably harder than it had to be" -- UNC blogger Brian Barbour emphasized the lack of pressure on UNC:
That being said, UNC is playing with house money to some extent here so if the worse thing that happens is UNC loses a competitive game, I am not sure I would even be that upset.
N.C. State was bummed out about their loss to Miami, but bloggers at Backing the Pack took it with a grain of salt:
On the bright side, however little consolation it might be, we don't have anything to worry about tomorrow despite today's loss. We are in the NCAA tournament; now we just have to wait to find out where we're going.
There's a more in-depth analysis of the Wolf Pack's tourney hopes here.
Maryland's tourney hopes, on the other hand, are dead after a loss to UNC where they fought hard and were within a last-second three-pointer of tying the game. That said, the crew at Testudo Times didn't take the loss too hard. They were pleased with a strong ACC Tournament run by a team nobody thought had it in them:
It's easy to be both proud and frustrated after this one - not necessarily frustrated at the team, given that they were playing their third game in three days and, on the basis of their regular season meetings with the Heels, maybe shouldn't have been in this one to begin with. But they were close to pulling it off, and that they didn't is at the very least a touch bittersweet.
No matter. I've been banging the "house money" drum all week - the Terps were left for dead for tourney contention last Sunday, and most by that point had moved on and accepted it. This was all about enjoying some basketball and appreciating what there was to appreciate - and goodness if they didn't give us plenty to appreciate.