North Carolina sends three teams to March Madness

NC State and Davidson earned bids to the NIT and will play each other in the first round on Thursday

UNC's Armando Bacot prepares to block the shot of Virginia Tech guard Tyrece Radford during Thursday's ACC Tournament quarterfinal game in Greensboro. (Gerry Broome / AP Photo)

Three teams from North Carolina are heading to Indiana for the NCAA Tournament. The 68-team bracket was unveiled on Sunday night.

Appalachian State will be the first team to see action in March Madness. The Mountaineers will participate in one of the First Four games, to be held before the start of the first round on Friday.

App received a No. 16 seed after winning the Sun Belt Conference Tournament. App is 17-11, 7-8 in the Sun Belt and had two overtime wins in its four-game march to the tournament championship. The Mountaineers will play fellow No. 16 seed Norfolk State, who won the MEAC Tournament. The winner will face undefeated No. 1 seed Gonzaga.

UNC Greensboro will open its tournament run as a No. 13 seed against No. 4 seed Florida State. UNCG (21-8 overall, 13-5 in the Southern Conference) won the SoCon Tournament to earn an automatic bid.

“We know Florida State is big, but we can’t control that. The only thing we can control is how we play, and we’ll be scrappy,” Spartans junior guard Kaleb Hunter said in a Zoom call shortly after the selection show. “As long as our names were called, that’s all that mattered. We’re blessed to be in this position.”

North Carolina is the lone in-state team to receive an at-large bid after going 18-10, 10-6 in the ACC, and reaching the ACC Tournament semifinals. The Tar Heels will open play as a No. 8 seed against Wisconsin, with a likely game against No. 1 seed Baylor for the winner.

“We are ecstatic to be playing in the NCAA Tournament,” UNC coach Roy Williams said in a statement from the team. “There were a couple of times during the season when we were wondering whether or not we would make the field, but our team kept getting a little bit better and better. So I’m just ecstatic for these kids, who have endured so much due to COVID and have an opportunity to continue their season.

“This will be an unusual tournament to say the least, but particularly for our coaches because we have so many young players who will be playing in the NCAA Tournament for the first time. Wisconsin will be a big-time challenge, but we played our way into our seed and we will have to play very well to advance. But we are looking forward to having that opportunity.”

Although NC State was never in serious consideration for an NCAA bid after suffering a lopsided loss to Syracuse in its ACC Tournament opener, its season will continue with a bid to the National Invitation Tournament.

The Wolfpack is a No. 3 seed in the 16-team field and will play in-state rival Davidson in a first-round game at 7 p.m. on Thursday. The winner will earn a quarterfinal date against either top-seeded Colorado State or Buffalo.

Because of the coronavirus pandemic, the field for the NIT has been condensed to just 16 teams with the entire tournament played in a bubble in the Dallas-Fort Worth area.

The Wolfpack (13-10) will be making its 13th appearance in the NIT and second since 2019. This will be the ninth NIT trip and 24th postseason bid overall for the 13-8 Wildcats.