Mid-major report: A look at the postseason hopes for in-state teams

Davidson, UNCG have the best chance for at-large NCAA Tournament bids

Gardner-Webb forward DJ Laster attempts to block Wake Forest guard Torry Johnson during the Bulldogs’ 73-69 road win over the Demon Deacons on Dec. 29. (Allison Lee Isley/The Winston-Salem Journal via AP)

With five and a half weeks to go until Selection Sunday, every team’s latest win and loss will be broken down to determine the impact on the school’s NCAA Tournament resume.

To get a head start on the bracketology, we decided to check in with the 14 non-ACC schools in the state for a progress report and an early read on each team’s March outlook.


Aiming for a bid

Davidson (16-5, 7-1 in the Atlantic 10): Despite the impressive record, the Wildcats likely need to finish strong to ensure themselves of just their second at-large bid (13 of their previous 14 trips were earned by winning the conference tourney). Even then, Davidson might be on pins and needles waiting for its name to be called if it doesn’t win its conference tournament. Davidson’s NET rating is just 63, putting it behind several potential bubble teams. The Wildcats have a shortage of impressive wins, going 0-2 against “Quadrant 1” (top-rated) teams.

UNC Greensboro (20-3, 9-1 Southern): Wes Miller hopes to get the Spartans back to the dance for a second straight year. If the Southern was ever going to get two bids, it would be this year, when UNCG and Wofford appear to both be worthy. The Spartans were one of seven teams to already reach 20 wins through Monday’s games (Tennessee, Virginia, Michigan, Gonzaga, Houston and Nevada are the others), but a conference tourney loss to Wofford could result in a very frustrating NIT trip for Miller.

Postseason a possibility

Gardner-Webb (14-9, 4-4 Big South): The Runnin’ Bulldogs are the only other team in the state in the top 200 in NET rating, coming in at 195th. Gardner-Webb owns high-profile wins over Georgia Tech (a Quadrant 2 win) and Wake Forest (Quadrant 3). The team has balanced scoring and senior leadership from David Efianayi and DJ Laster. Assuming they don’t win the Big South tourney, Gardner-Webb should be playing in one of the other postseason tournaments.

Campbell (13-9, 6-2 Big South): The Camels have scoring machine Chris Clemons, which has been enough to vault Campbell to second in the Big South. Still, with a 221 NET, the Camels will need to win the conference tourney to get an NCAA berth. Short of that, hopefully Campbell will get to extend Clemons’ career with a bid to another postseason tournament.

High Point (12-10, 5-3 Big South): Tubby Smith’s squad is in a five-team fight for second place in the Big South. The junior guard tandem of Jahaad Proctor and Brandon Kamga lead the way, averaging a combined 33.2 points, 8.9 rebounds and 5.1 assists.

NC A&T (11-11, 6-2 MEAC): The Aggies have played a brutal schedule, traveling to Maryland, Virginia Tech, Minnesota, Hofstra, Wake Forest, Marshall and ECU. Unfortunately, they have yet to win a Quadrant 1, 2 or 3 game, going 0-7. They’ve fattened their record by beating up on teams at the bottom of the rankings.

NC Central (10-13, 5-4 MEAC): It’s a rare off year for LeVelle Moton, who will need a strong finish to avoid just his second losing season in nine years at the helm of the Eagles. Central is also 0-7 against the top three quadrants, with losses at Cincinnati, Clemson, George Mason and St. Louis, among others.

Need a conference tourney miracle

Appalachian State (8-14, 3-6 Sun Belt): In his fifth year, coach Jim Fox has never posted a winning season at App, and it’s looking like this year won’t break the pattern. An 0-6 record against Quadrant 3 teams has sunk the Mountaineers’ hopes of a turnaround, despite senior guard Ronshad Shabazz (18.1 points per game) of Raleigh and sophomore Justin Forrest (16.6 points per game).

UNC Wilmington senior Devontae Cacok is leading the Seahawks with 15.6 points and 12.1 rebounds per game. (Gerry Broome / AP Photo)

UNC Wilmington (8-16, 4-7 Colonial): Former UNC assistant C.B. McGrath is struggling to get the program back to the level Kevin Keatts left, heading for his second straight losing season. Keatts holdover Devontae Cacok is averaging 15.6 points and 12.1 rebounds as a senior. Charlotte sophomore Ty Gadsden (11.5 points per game) and Japan-born freshman Kai Toews (8.6 points) are solid building blocks for the future.

East Carolina (9-12, 2-7 AAC): A home win over Cincinnati has been the highlight of coach Joe Dooley’s first season at the helm. If the Pirates can put together a late-season run, they could find their way into the postseason. There are plenty of opportunities for impressive wins with games remaining against Houston, South Florida, UConn, Memphis and Wichita State.

Charlotte (5-17, 2-9 CUSA): First-year coach Ron Sanchez has already lost more games than he did the last two seasons combined as a UVa assistant. The 49ers beat Oklahoma State at home, but not much else has gone right for Charlotte. Senior guard Jon Davis (21.5 points per game) is the team’s only double-digit scorer.

Western Carolina (6-18, 3-8 Southern): Another first-year coach in the state is paying his dues, as Mark Prosser has won just a half dozen games on the year. WCU still has games remaining against Quadrant 1 teams Wofford, UNCG and ETSU, all on the road, so things could get worse before they get better.

Elon (8-16, 4-7 Colonial): The Phoenix have a nice new arena, which will likely be the bright spot of the season. Elon sends out seniors Tyler Seibring (17.3 points per game), Steve Santa Ana (15.4 points) and Sheldon Eberhardt (9.5 points) with their second straight losing season. Coach Matt Matheny has topped .500 just once in the five years since Elon joined the Colonial after posting back-to-back winning campaigns in the Southern.

UNC Asheville (3-20, 1-8 Big South): At No. 352, UNCA is the second worst team in the nation, according to the NET ratings that the selection committee uses to evaluate teams. This is a team that won 20 games each of the last three seasons but has bottomed out under first-year coach Mike Morell.