Bracket prospects look good for North Carolina teams

Five teams are currently projected to earn a bid to the NCAA Tournament

UNC Wilmington guard Shykeim Phillips and the Seahawks have won nine in a row and not lost since Dec. 11. (Daniel Lin / Daily News-Record via AP)

The calendar is about to turn to February, which, for college basketball season, means it’s time to think about March. As the regular season enters its final month, teams around the state are trying to get into position for an NCAA Tournament berth. Here’s a look at the prospects of each of the state’s Division I teams a month away from Selection Sunday.

Looking like they’re in

Duke: After missing the tournament last year for the first time since 1995, the Blue Devils look like they’re ready to send coach Mike Krzyzewski into retirement with a typical high seed in the Big Dance. Currently, most bracketologists have Duke slotted as a two-seed, with the Blue Devils looking to move up to the top line. Heading into Tuesday’s game, Duke is 15-3, 5-2 in the ACC, with signature wins over Gonzaga, Kentucky and Wake Forest.

Davidson: The Wildcats have won 15 straight and are 16-2, 6-0 in the Atlantic 10. An upset over Alabama and a road win over VCU are the two signature wins for Davidson so far. The Wildcats entered the AP Top 25 this week and are currently projected as an 8 to 10 seed. They seem likely to get their first bid since 2018.

Wake Forest: The surprise team in the ACC with likely coach of the year Steve Forbes, the Demon Deacons are currently slotted as a 10 or 11 seed. That could improve with a strong finish, while a prolonged slump could put the Deacs on the bubble. The best bet is that Wake will get its first bid since 2017 and just its second in the last dozen years. Wake has a star in Alondes Williams and plenty of talent backing him up. Wake is 17-4, 7-3 in the ACC, but is still searching for a signature win. Wake has lost to the three best teams it has played — Duke, Miami and LSU.

UNC: The Tar Heels are in but falling fast. UNC suffered 20-point losses in back-to-back games last week, the first time that’s happened against unranked Tar Heels foes since 1955. UNC got back on track with a win over Virginia Tech to move to 13-6, 5-3 in the ACC, but there’s still plenty of work to do to hold onto a bid. Most mock brackets have UNC headed for the bubble.

UNC Wilmington: The Seahawks are red-hot, winning their last nine to move to 12-5, 6-0 in the Colonial Athletic Conference. Most mocks have UNCW as a 16th seed and potentially relegated to the First Four. The Seahawks likely need to win the conference tournament to get the one bid the CAA is likely to merit, which would be UNCW’s first bid since 2017.

Bubble candidates

App State: The Mountaineers made the tournament last year and are in position to make another run. App is 12-9, 6-2 in the Sun Belt, which is good for second place. They’ve won four straight but will likely have to win the conference tourney to get a ticket.

UNC Greensboro: The Spartans have lost three of four after opening 10-5 to enter Wednesday’s game at 11-8, 3-4 in the Southern Conference. They’ll likely need to win the tournament to get a bid.

NC State: The Wolfpack opened 6-1 but won just four of their next 13 to fall to 10-10, 3-6 in the ACC. They have some work to do to reach the bubble, but it’s within reach with two games each against UNC and Wake and one against FSU.

East Carolina: The Pirates were looking good at 10-1, but they’ve lost four of five since. At 2-4, they’re in the bottom half of the American Athletic Conference and have just one Quad II win on their resume.

Charlotte: The 49ers have no Quad I or II wins, but they’re just a half game out in the Sun Belt East. They’ll need to win the conference tournament but are on the short list of contenders to do it.

Need a conference tourney miracle

NC Central: The Eagles always seem to get the miracle in March. LeVelle Moton has his crew in line for another one, at 8-9, 2-0 in the Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference, good for second place.

Gardner-Webb: The Runnin’ Bulldogs are 9-10, 3-3 in the Big South. They’ve lost three straight but have a win over Georgia on their resume.

NC A&T: The Aggies are 9-11, 4-2 in the Big South, and have lost two of three since a four-game winning streak.

Campbell: Five North Carolina teams are clumped together in the middle of the Big South. The Camels are 10-7, 3-3 in the conference, and have won three of four.

UNC Asheville: The Bulldogs are 11-8, 3-3 in the Big South but have lost three of four.

High Point: After eight- and nine-win seasons the last two years, High Point has already logged its eighth win. At 8-11, 2-3 in the Big South, they still have a way to go to contend.

Western Carolina: The Catamounts are headed in the wrong direction, at 8-12, 2-5 in the Southern Conference. They’ve lost three straight and five of six.

Elon: The Phoenix appear to be the worst team in the state, at 5-15, 2-5 in the CAA.