ATLANTA — North Carolina suffered an 85-82 defeat against Florida State here on Sunday in the ACC tournament championship game, but the Tar Heels still ended the day on a high after learning they had earned a No. 1 seed in the NCAA tournament.
UNC will begin tournament play on Friday at Greensboro Coliseum as the No. 1 seed in the Midwest region. The Tar Heels will play the winner of Wednesday's first-round matchup between Southland Conference champion Lamar (23-11) and America East Conference champion Vermont (23-11) in Dayton, Ohio, on Friday (6:30 p.m. truTV). Should UNC advance, it would play either No. 8 Creighton or No. 9 Alabama on Sunday.
If UNC wins two games in Greensboro, it would then advance to the Midwest Regional in St. Louis.
Kansas earned the No. 2 seed in the Midwest, while Georgetown is the No. 3 and Michigan the No. 4. Before the Tar Heels' loss against the Seminoles in the ACC tournament championship, UNC had won nine consecutive games.
Now, though, the Heels will enter the NCAA tournament seeking to build new momentum.
"It can go one of two ways," UNC senior forward Tyler Zeller said of the disappointment surrounding Sunday's ACC tournament loss to Florida State. "It can put us back at ground zero, which we hope we don't ever go back to.
"Or we can use it to drive us and make sure that we get more motivated - (that) we're more precise with things, and hopefully we realize now that we can't start slow. We've got to be able to play all 40 minutes."
UNC received the third overall No. 1 seed. Kentucky, the No. 1 seed in the South, is the tournament's top overall seed, followed by Syracuse, which earned the No. 1 seed in the East. Michigan State, which won the Big Ten championship on Sunday, received the fourth No. 1 seed, in the West.
The Midwest Region, meanwhile, sets the stage for a potential meeting between UNC and Kansas in the regional finals. UNC coach Roy Williams coached the Jayhawks from 1988 through 2003.
To make it to the regional final, though, Williams' team likely will need to play far better than it did during the first half of its loss on Sunday. Williams hopes his team in the NCAA tournament more resembles the one that rallied during the second half against the Seminoles.
"The last 12 minutes, it was the North Carolina team that I have seen recently, and it is the North Carolina team that I like and we want to be," Williams said.