UNCG, Davidson, NCCU look to pull upsets in NCAAs

Three schools part of a record-tying six from N.C. to earn tournament bids

Davidson topped Rhode Island for the Atlantic 10 conference tournament title, earning a No. 12 seed and a first round NCAA Tournament matchup against Kentucky. (Geoff Burke / USA TODAY Sports)

The state of North Carolina placed six teams in the NCAA Tournament this season, tying a record the state set back in 2002. NC State, Wake Forest, Duke, Davidson, UNC Wilmington and Charlotte all made the dance 16 years ago, and three of those teams are back to help get a share of the record this season, as well.

NC State and Duke were at-large picks, as was defending national champion North Carolina. The other three schools in the state all won their respective conference tournaments to make it into the NCAAs.


The Wildcats upset Rhode Island in the championship game of the Atlantic 10 Tournament to punch their ticket for the first time since 2015. Davidson is making its 14th trip to the Big Dance, and the Wildcats were the third team from 2002 to also receive one of the half dozen NCAA bids the state earned this year.

• First round: Davidson travels to Boise as a No. 12 seed and will have plenty of attention, as the team drew fifth-seeded Kentucky. The Lexington Wildcats have a huge, loud fanbase as well as a roster stocked with elite freshmen who will be playing in the NBA soon.

Davidson is a trendy upset pick, however, thanks to its strong outside shooting — five players have hit at least 37 percent of their threes this year — and its ability to take care of the ball and avoid turnovers.

• Possible second-round matchups: Assuming the Charlotte Wildcats advance, they’ll meet the winner of No. 3 Arizona and No. 13 Buffalo. Arizona has yet another NBA lottery quality freshman in DeAndre Ayton.

• Possible paths after week one: Davidson has made improbable NCAA runs before. This year, the Sweet 16 would likely bring the top team in the nation in Virginia. No. 2 Cincinnati or No. 3 Tennessee would be the last hurdle to making the Final Four.

UNC Greensboro

Wes Miller’s Spartans won the Southern Conference to earn the school’s third NCAA bid and first since 2001.

• First round: Like Davidson, UNCG heads to Boise. The Spartans are a 13-seed and will match up with No. 4 Gonzaga, who played North Carolina in the National Championship Game last season.

The Zags may not be quite at the level of last year’s national finalist, but they are riding a 14-game winning streak dating back to Jan. 18. Gonzaga is a 30-win team with balanced scoring — five players average between 11.3 and 13.4 points per game. Johnathan Williams, who scored nine points with five rebounds against the Tar Heels last April, is the team’s leading scorer, rebounder and shot blocker.

• Possible second round matchups: An upset of the Zags would take UNCG to a game against the winner of Ohio State and South Dakota State. The No. 5 Buckeyes are the likely foe.

• Possible paths after week one: The West Region shifts to Los Angeles for week two, and the Spartans would likely need to find a way to get past No. 1 seed Villanova. No. 3 Michigan and No. 2 North Carolina — Miller’s alma mater — loom on the other side of the region.

NC Central

LeVelle Moten’s Eagles won the MEAC and head to the NCAAs for the second straight year and third time in team history.

• First round: Central’s tournament run starts two days earlier than most other teams. The Eagles were one of the teams chosen for the First Four in Dayton and will play Texas Southern, who won the SWAC with a losing record. A win there draws Xavier, the No. 1 seed in the West.

Texas Southern isn’t a pushover however. The team lost its first 13 games of the year, playing a murderers’ row of a nonconference schedule that included Syracuse, Clemson, Kansas, Baylor, Oregon and TCU. The team has gone 15-6 since. Texas Southern is led by Charlotte native Donte Clark, a UMass transfer who led the team with 18.6 ppg.

Xavier is a tough reward for whichever team wins that opening game. The Musketeers are playing close to home in Nashville and enter with a 28-5 record and one of the nation’s best players — Trevon Bluiett, who averages 19.5 points per game.

• Possible second-round matchups: A second-round matchup would mean that NC Central made tournament history, becoming the first 16-seed to beat a No. 1. The Eagles would then draw the winner of the 8/9 game between Missouri and Florida State.

Possible paths after week one: Next up would be No. 4 Gonzaga, No. 5 Ohio State, or possibly UNC Greensboro. The Tar Heels are also in a North Carolina-heavy West Region.