Tar Heels headed to Gainesville Regional

May. 26, 2014 @ 09:30 PM

For his first three years at North Carolina, Parks Jordan’s only concern when he watched the NCAA Tournament selection show was which national seed the Tar Heels would receive.

The senior has an entirely different experience on Monday. With an RPI of 42 and its most losses since 2001, UNC wasn’t even a lock to make the 64-team field.

Eventually, it was announced that the program would be making its 13th straight NCAA Tournament appearance – but it was a close call.

The Tar Heels (34-25) earned the No. 3 regional seed in the Gainesville Regional and will face No. 2 Long Beach State (32-24) on Friday (1 p.m., ESPN3.com). No. 2 overall seed Florida (40-21), the host team, and CAA champion College of Charleston (41-17) are also in the regional.

“The majority of the team thought we would get in and thought we should get in,” Jordan said. “It’s a little nerve-wracking but once you hear your name it’s a lot of weight off your shoulders and it’s a good feeling right now.”

The Tar Heels were one of the last four teams in the field according to the 10-person selection committee, which includes UNC executive associate athletic director Larry Gallo.

UNC has advanced to the College World Series in six of the last eight seasons, but in order to make it back they will have to start on the road for just the second time since 2006. The Tar Heels went to Oklahoma for regionals in 2010 and went 2-2, losing both games it played against the host Sooners.

“It’s a different feeling but at the same time, you can’t be a national seed every year,” Jordan said. “We have had some rough patches this season, but at the same time all you want is a shot and that’s we’ve got. Everyone’s on equal ground now. It’s a new season.”

The Tar Heels went 2-2 this past week in the ACC Tournament, beating N.C. State in a play-in game and topping Maryland after the Terrapins had already clinched a spot in the title game, but losing to Florida State and Virginia.

UNC coach Mike Fox said that the competition in the ACC, which included four games each against national seeds Florida State and Virginia, will help the Tar Heels in a tough regional.

“I don’t think in that regard our guys are going to be surprised by the caliber of teams we’re going to be facing,” Fox said.

The winner of the Gainesville Regional will play the winner of the Coral Gables Regional – which includes Miami, Texas Tech, Columbia and Bethune Cookman – for a spot in the College World Series.

UNC lost 2 of 3 at College of Charleston three months ago in its season-opening series. It has faced Long Beach State just once, in Chapel Hill in 1992, and it last played Florida in the 2005 Gainesville Regional (the Gators beat UNC en route to the College World Series)

Long Beach State finished 14-3 to land in the field for the first time since 2008, while College of Charleston is in the NCAAs for the sixth time in 11 years. Playing in a league that features 10 NCAA Tournament teams, the Gators won the SEC by two games and made the conference title game to earn the No. 2 national seed.

N.C. State, which had an RPI of 59, and No. 82 Duke were not selected for the tournament, which includes seven teams from the ACC – No. 3 overall seed Virginia, No. 5 overall seed Florida State, regional host Miami, ACC champion Georgia Tech, Maryland, UNC and Clemson, which was also one of the last four teams to make it in.

Follow UNC beat writer Harold Gutmann on Twitter at @haroldgut.