While the ACC Tournament gets most of the publicity in this state, the big event in Greensboro is just one of several conference tournaments involving North Carolina teams hoping for a bid in the NCAA Big Dance.
For the non-ACC teams in the state, the chances of an at-large bid from the selection committee are slim to nonexistent, either because they play in a one-bid conference or had a regular season that didn’t measure up. They need to cut down the nets in their conference to make it to March Madness.
UNC Greensboro won the Southern Conference regular season for the first time since 2018, which was also the last time the Spartans made the NCAA Tournament. UNCG went 18-8, 13-5 in the SoCon. Wes Miller’s team beat The Citadel 80-72 on Saturday and No. 5 East Tennessee State 77-65 on Sunday. That earned Miller his fifth straight 20-win season and a spot in the SoCon title game for the fourth time in five seasons. The Spartans knocked off No. 7 Mercer 69-61 to become the first team from the state to get an NCAA bid this season.
Appalachian State put together a Cinderella run in the Sun Belt Tournament. The Mountaineers limped into the tournament after losing six of their last seven regular season games to drop to 13-11, 7-8 in the Sun Belt.
As the No. 4 seed in the East, App knocked off West No. 5 Little Rock by seven, then won a pair of overtime games, shocking West No. 1 Texas State 76-73 on Saturday and East No. 2 Coastal Carolina 64-61 on Sunday. The Mountaineers faced east No. 1 Georgia State in the championship game on Monday night. Minutes after UNCG won their conference tournament, App held on in an 80-73 win to become the second N.C. team into the dance.
Elon put together a Cinderella run of its own in the CAA Tournament. The Phoenix entered as the eighth seed at 7-8, 4-7 in the league, and beat ninth-seeded Towson by 21 in the opening round. Then Elon shocked top seed James Madison, 72-71. The streak continued with a 76-58 win over No. 4 Hofstra on Monday, which earned the Phoenix a spot in the CAA title game against Drexel — a 63-56 loss that ended Elon’s long shot chance at earning its first bid to March Madness.
Getting ready to play their conference tourneys
The MEAC Tournament gets started on Thursday. NC Central has won the last three MEAC tourneys that played to completion and was on a collision course with NC A&T last year when the pandemic canceled the rest of the event after the quarterfinals.
The two teams could meet in this year’s semis. A&T won the MEAC South at 11-10, 7-1. Central was in third place at 5-8, 3-5. The Eagles face North No. 2 seed Norfolk State in the quarterfinals on Thursday, while A&T gets the winner on Friday after getting a bye into the semis.
The odds don’t favor either team. Norfolk State has a 26% chance of winning the automatic bid, followed by Morgan State at 20%. A&T is given just 19.07% odds of winning the tournament, making them the third most likely of the six teams in the bracket. Central is the least likely to win, given odds of just 7.89%.
Charlotte finished 9-15, 5-11 in the Conference USA East. As the fifth seed in the East, the 49ers open with West No. 4 seed Texas-San Antonio. Charlotte has a 37% chance of winning that game but just a 0.27% percent shot at winning four games to take the CUSA crown and automatic bid.
East Carolina finished last in the American at 8-10, 2-10 in the league, and will need to win the AAC Tournament to get a bid to the NCAAs. ECU opens as the No. 11 seed, facing No. 6 UCF on Thursday. TeamRankings.com gives ECU a 0.09% chance of winning the AAC.
Already likely eliminated
Davidson finished third in the Atlantic 10 and lost to VCU in the conference tournament semifinals, 64-52, ending the Wildcats’ hopes of getting an NCAA bid.
Campbell advanced to the finals of the Big South Tournament as a third seed but lost 80-53 to Winthrop. The Big South is a one-bid league, so the Camels are out of the dance, as are No. 4 UNC Asheville, No. 6 Gardner-Webb and No. 8 High Point, who all lost in the quarterfinals.
UNC Wilmington finished last in the CAA at 7-9, 1-6, and lost its opening-round game to William & Mary as the 10th seed.
Western Carolina finished 11-15, 4-13 in the Southern Conference, which earned them the No. 9 seed in the SoCon Tournament. The Catamounts were bounced by No. 8 The Citadel, 100-86.