NC’s first-round exits look ahead to next season

NC State, UNCG, Davidson and NC Central could all return to the NCAA Tournament next season

UNCG forward Marvin Smith shoots over Gonzaga forward Corey Kispert in the first round of the 2018 NCAA Tournament in Boise, Idaho. (Kyle Terada / USA TODAY Sports)

Only Duke remains of the six N.C. schools that earned bids to the NCAA Tournament, and four of those teams made early exits in the first round. Here’s a look at how each of those four schools was eliminated and how things look going forward.

UNC Greensboro

What happened: The 13th-seeded Spartans had defending national runner-up Gonzaga on the ropes, leading into the game’s final minute before two bad offensive possessions and a late 3-pointer by the Bulldogs sent them to a first round 68-64 loss.

Who’s back: Junior Francis Alonso led the Spartans in scoring at 15.6 points per game and is the team’s top 3-point threat with 111 this season while shooting 40 percent from beyond the arc. UNCG also returns its top rebounder in 6-10 sophomore James Dickey, who averaged 8.4 rebounds and 8.9 points per game, and top playmaker in junior point guard Demetrius Troy, who handed out 132 assists in addition to averaging 7.7 points per game.

Who’s not: Wing Marvin Smith was the second-leading scorer on the team and the only other player besides Alonso to average double-figures at 12.0. The Spartans will also lose all-purpose 6-9 forward Jordy Kuiper, who was an inside-outside threat while averaging 7.1 points and 4.8 rebounds.

Who’s new: The incoming freshman class consists of Angelo Allegri, a 6-7 wing from Kansas City who averaged 20 points and seven rebounds as a high school junior, and 6-9, 260-pound power forward Mohammed Abdulsalam from Atlanta.

Building block or high point: The direction of the program will depend a lot on whether coach Wes Miller decides to return or leaves for a higher-profile job after leading UNCG to two straight 25-plus win seasons and this year’s NCAA bid.

NC Central

What happened: Central made its third-ever NCAA appearance, losing to 15-19 Texas Southern in the First Four. It’s the second straight year Lawrence Moten’s Eagles have lost in the First Four.

Who’s back: After years of building with transfers, Central had 59 games started by freshmen this year — Jordan Perkins and Reggie Gardner Jr. Leading scorer Raasean Davis also has one year left, as do Zacarry Davis, John Guerra and Brandon Goldsmith, giving Moten a solid core of returning players.

Who’s not: The biggest loss is senior reserve Pablo Rivas, who, at 11.7 points per game, was the team’s second-leading scorer. Alex Mills, who appeared in just eight games, also announced that he’s transferring. The rest of the senior class were 10-15 minute-per-game reserves — Raekwon Harney, Marius McAllister and Dominique Reed. Combined, the three players averaged 7.2 points this season. Moten is a rising star in the coaching profession and is always a risk to move up the ladder as well.

Who’s new: The team adds St. Louis transfer Ty Graves, a former Boston College player, although he may not be eligible to compete immediately. The Eagles should also have room to add two freshmen and a JUCO or graduate transfer.

Building block or high point: This year was a definite building block for a team that should be able to play its way into a round of 64 berth, and possibly a higher-profile job for Moten, next season.


Kentucky forward Sacha Killeya-Jones guards Davidson guard Kellan Grady in the first round of the 2018 NCAA Tournament in Boise, Idaho. (Kyle Terada / USA TODAY Sports)

What happened: The 12-seed Wildcats gave five-seed Kentucky all it wanted, flirting with an upset before falling 78-73 to finish off a 21-12 season. Davidson held Kentucky without a 3-pointer for the first time since 1988, snapping a 1,047-game streak that was the longest in the nation.

Who’s back: Davidson should return three of its top four scorers in rising sophomore Kellan Grady (18.0 per game), junior Jon Axel Gudmundsson (13.2) and junior KiShawn Pritchett (5.9). Gudmundsson also led the team in assists (5.1) and was second in rebounding (6.0).

Who’s not: Coach Bob McKillop must replace Atlantic 10 co-Player of the Year Peyton Aldridge, the third-leading scorer in program history. The senior led the team in scoring (21.2 per game) and rebounding (7.6). Contributors Will Magarity, Oskar Michelsen and Rusty Reigel, who combined for 55.9 minutes, 15.0 points and 9.4 rebounds, also depart.

Who’s new: McKillop signed Michael Jones, a high-school shooting guard out of Minnesota, and 6-foot-9 forward Nelson Boachie-Yiadom, who was a captain for the Great Britain U18 national team. The team also has commitments from Swedish guard David Czerapowicz, whose brother Chris played for McKillop four years ago. Davidson also got a commitment from Austrian center Luka Brajkovic, who chose the Wildcats over Stanford, Purdue and Penn State.

Building block or high point: Replacing the senior class will be a hurdle, but Davidson has a strong core returning and no seniors next year, so expect a good two-year run in the A-10.

NC State

What happened: The Wolfpack suffered a similar fate as its opening round ACC tournament loss to Boston College by falling behind early, battling back in the second half but never completely catching up in a 94-83 first round NCAA loss to Seton Hall.

Who’s back: State returns a solid nucleus of veteran talent, led by senior-to-be Torin Dorn, an undersized forward who is a perfect fit for coach Kevin Keatts’ system because of his ability to get to the rim and willingness to fight bigger opponents for rebounds. The backcourt is also well-stocked with point guard Markell Johnson back, and the freshman duo of Braxton Beverly and Lavar Batts having gained plenty of experience as freshmen.

Who’s not: Big man Omer Yurtseven still has two years of eligibility left but will likely enter the NBA draft after a breakthrough sophomore season. The Wolfpack will also lose its two other big men, seniors Lennard Freeman and Abdul-Malik Abu, along with graduate transfers Allerik Freeman — the team’s leading scorer — and Sam Hunt.

Who’s new: Keatts is bringing virtually a whole new team in for 2018-19 with four four-star freshmen, three Division I transfers and a JUCO joining the program. The newcomers are wing Saddiq Bey and power forward Manny Bates, both considered top-100 recruits, along with big man Ian Steere and wing Jericole Hellems. The three transfers, all of whom have been with the program for a year now, are wing C.J. Bryce from UNCW, point guard Blake Harris from Missouri and guard Devon Daniels from Utah, while 6-foot-10 forward Derek Funderburk arrives from Northwest Florida Junior College after originally signing with Ohio State.

Building block or high point: State overachieved by winning 21 games its first season under Keatts, a success that came at least a year earlier than most expected. With the influx of talent being added to the program, the future figures to be bright.