6 women’s teams hope to represent NC in Big Dance

NC State leads a group of NCAA hopefuls on the women’s side

Guard Kai Crutchfield and the Wolfpack are ranked third in the country and in line to be a No. 1 seed in the NCAA Tournament. (PJ Ward-Brown / North State Journal)

Women’s basketball Selection Sunday is just over five weeks away, and at least a half-dozen teams in the state are holding out hope for an NCAA Tournament bid.

While North Carolina is known for a long history of success in men’s basketball, there’s a good chance the state has more representation in the women’s bracket this year. The state looks headed for a No. 1 seed and two other teams that will be favored in their opening-round games, as well as three other teams looking to take single bids from their respective conferences. Here’s a roundup of the women’s teams in the state and their March Madness prospects.

Looking like they’re in

NC State: Since 2017, only the COVID-19 pandemic has kept the Wolfpack out of the NCAA Tournament — or, for that matter, out of the Sweet 16. The Pack are readying themselves for another long run in the tournament this year. State is a consensus No. 1 seed from the women’s bracketologists and is currently ranked No. 3 in the country at 19-3, 10-1 in the ACC.

UNC: The Tar Heels have split their last eight games and will try to put together a hot streak to finish out the regular season. Currently, the Heels are a consensus sixth seed. National bracketologists have no consensus on who they’ll play, with potential opponents ranging from Gonzaga to Rhode Island to Missouri State. The Heels are currently No. 24 in the nation at 16-4, 6-4 in the ACC.

Duke: The Blue Devils are in, according to all the bracketologists, but their spot is far from secure. Duke is on a three-game losing streak and slotted to be an eighth seed. That would mean a likely second-round matchup against either Stanford or South Carolina for the Blue Devils (13-7, 4-6 ACC).

Bubble candidates

Charlotte: The 49ers lead the Conference USA East division at 5-1 in the conference, although the 9-7 overall record means that Charlotte likely needs to win the conference tournament to be assured of a spot in the tournament. ESPN is the only outlet that has Charlotte in, as a 14th seed against Iowa State.

Campbell: The Fighting Camels are tied with Longwood for the Big South lead at 8-2 in the conference and 14-5 overall. With a game and a half lead over the next best teams, it appears to be a two-team race for the top seed in the conference tournament. ESPN and College Sports Madness both have the Camels in as a 16th seed opposite NC State. ESPN has them playing in the First Four. Real Time RPI has the Camels out.

NC A&T: The Aggies are 9-10 overall but 6-4 in the Big South, which is good for a tie for third place. The Aggies have won six straight, but they’ll need to win the conference tourney to get in. Real Time RPI thinks they’ll do it, projecting them as a 16th seed opposite South Carolina.

Need a conference tourney miracle

App State: The Mountaineers haven’t gotten any bracketology love, but they’re the best team in the state not projected to get a ticket to the dance. App has won five straight and leads the Sun Belt at 11-8, 5-1 in the conference.

Davidson: The Wildcats have lost four of five to slip into the lower half of the Atlantic 10 standings. Their 12-7 overall record isn’t terrible, but at 3-4 in the conference, they need to go on a run to even approach the bubble.

Wake Forest: The Demon Deacons have lost six straight and are two spots out of the ACC basement at 2-8 with a 12-9 overall record.

High Point: The Panthers are just a game behind NC A&T in the Big South, but at 7-11, 4-3 in the conference, they’ll need to win the conference tourney to get in.

Gardner-Webb: The Runnin’ Bulldogs are in a tie with High Point in the Big South at 6-4 in the conference. Their overall record is 8-13 and they’ve lost three of their last four.

UNC Greensboro: The Spartans are in sixth place in the Southern Conference at 6-12, 2-3 in the conference. They’ve won two of three since a five-game losing streak but still need to win the SoCon tourney.

Elon: The Phoenix are in seventh place in the CAA at 2-5 and are 10-7 overall. They’ve lost their last two.

NC Central: The Eagles are in second-to-last place in the MEAC, although, due to odd scheduling and a large difference in the number of conference games played, they are the farthest out of first place at four games back. Central is 2-13, 1-5 in the conference.

East Carolina: The Pirates are in last place in the 11-team American Athletic Conference at 8-12 overall, 1-6 in the conference. They’ve lost three straight.

UNC Asheville: The Bulldogs are tied for last in the Big South with Radford and Winthrop at 2-7 in the conference and 7-13 overall. They’ve lost their last four.

Western Carolina: The Catamounts have lost seven straight and are in last place in the SoCon at 6-15, 0-7 in the conference.

UNC Wilmington: The Seahawks might lay claim to the dubious title of worst team in the state at 3-14, 0-7 in the CAA and losers of seven straight. The most recent loss, Monday’s 56-40 loss to Hofstra — previously 0-7 in conference play — placed them alone in the CAA cellar.