WFNZ/Jason Huber

Previewing All Five Carolina Teams In The Tournament

Jason Huber
March 19, 2019 - 8:39 pm

Five teams represent the Carolinas in the NCAA Tournament this year.

Two of the teams, Duke and North Carolina, with the Blue Devils being favored to win it all.

Here’s a look at what needs to happen for teams in the Carolinas to turn this into a successful tournament for them.

EAST REGION:

No.1 Duke Blue Devils (29-5): Coming off their 21st ACC Tournament title, the Blue Devils enter the tournament with the best player in the country in Zion Williamson. Fellow freshmen R.J. Barrett is also expected to be taken within the first picks of NBA Draft.

Williamson (6-foot-7, 285 lbs), who is regarded as one of the more athletic players ever, averages 22.1 points per game and 8.9 rebounds.  Barrett adds 22.9 points and 7.5 rebounds per game.

To get to the Final Four, Duke will start off facing either No. 16 NC Central or North Dakota State and then the winner of the 8/9 matchup between VCU and UCF.

Assuming there are no upsets, the Blue Devils would face No. 4 Virginia Tech in the Sweet 16 and then No. 2 Michigan in the Elite 8.

No. 3 LSU, No. 7 Louisville and No. 5 Mississippi are also potential threats to stop Duke.

However, with such a talented core, the biggest weakness for the Blue Devils is their 3-point shooting.

Making just 30.2 percent of their three's, no team has ever made the Final Four with a percentage that low. But with Williamson on the team, that could change this year.

After losing Williamson for basically six games to a knee injury, Duke lost three of its final six games in the regular season but swept through the ACC Tournament with Williamson back healthy.

Freshmen Tre Jones and Cam Reddish also missed time this season and junior center Marques Bolden missed the ACC Tournament.

The Blue Devils have only one loss this season when fully healthy, that coming to Gonzaga back in November.


No. 16 NC Central Eagles (18-15): The Eagles are back in the NCAA Tournament for the third consecutive year and will face North Dakota State in the First Four for the chance to advance to the field of 64.

NC Central lost it’s First Four matchup the last two years and hope that a strong finish to the season with a MEAC title over Norfolk State can finally send it to the first round.

Led by senior center Raasean Davis who is averaging 14.6 points and 8.9 rebounds, the Eagles have used a balanced rotation of forwards and size to work it’s way to the tournament.

NC Central led the MEAC in offensive rebounding and will rely on rebounding and scoring in the paint to advance.  

If the Eagles were to win, they would be rewarded with No. 1 Duke as it’s opponent in the first-round matchup.

Only one No. 16 seed has ever beaten a No. 1 seed and that came last year with UMBC knocking off Virginia, so it's not impossible, but if the Eagles knock off North Dakota State and face Duke, the size and talent advantage from the Blue Devils may be too much to handle.

SOUTH REGION:

No. 16 Gardner-Webb Bulldogs (23-11): After starting the season with a 2-5 record, the Runnin' Bulldogs rallied with big wins over ACC opponents Wake Forest and Georgia Tech.

GWU clinched it’s first-ever NCAA Tournament berth with a Big South Tournament title and were awarded a No. 16 seed.

The Bulldogs will play in Columbia, S.C., which is close to their campus in Boiling Springs, but they face a daunting task.

Out of all four  No. 16 seeds this year, the Bulldogs have as good as a chance as any to pull off the upset behind seniors David Efianayi and DJ Laster who are averaging 18.3 and 13.7 points per game, respectively.

Efianayi can shoot the ball, hitting 41.4 percent of his 3-pointers and GWU won eight of their final 10 games.

MIDWEST REGION:

No. 1 North Carolina Tar Heels (27-6): Head coach Roy Williams and UNC finished the season as one of the hottest and most consistent teams in the country.

The Tar Heels won 14 of their final 15 games of the regular season, including two against a Zion-less Duke team.

The Tar Heels met Duke for a third time, in the ACC Tournament semifinals, but the selection committee awarded the Tar Heels with a No. 1 seed.

Up first for the Tar Heels is No. 16 Iona. UNC should move on to the round of 32 to face No. 8 Utah State or No. 9 Washington, but things only get tougher from there.

If there were no upsets, the Tar Heels would face No. 4 Kansas in the Sweet 16 and No. 2 Kentucky in the Elite 8.

No. 5 Auburn, No. 3 Houston and No. 7 Wofford are also all tough outs in the Midwest Region.

Averaging 86.1 points per game and ranking 10th in defensive efficiency, UNC is led by seniors Luke Maye, Cameron Johnson, and freshman guard Coby White.

White has been one of the country’s best freshmen this season escalating his way up NBA draft boards averaging 16.3 points per game and having multiple 30-point games.

Johnson is shooting 46.5 percent from the 3-point line, but the Tar Heels showed inconsistency behind the line the ACC Tournament.

UNC will have a tough route to make it to the Final Four but Williams has won all three of his championships without winning the ACC Tournament first.

No. 7 Wofford Terriers (29-4): Coming off the best season in school history, Wofford dominated in the Southern Conference en route to a tournament title and spent the last half of the season ranked in the AP Top 25 for the first time ever.

Currently, on a 20-game winning streak, the Terriers were rewarded with a No. 7 seed and will face No. 10 Seton Hall.

However, things get tougher after that with a potential matchup against Kentucky in the second round.

Wofford will have a true test getting by the Wildcats and is relying on seniors Fletcher Magee, who broke Stephen Curry's NCAA Division One 3-point record this season and is averaging 20.5 points per game.

Cameron Jackson has performed well in the post, averaging 14.6 points per game and 7.5 rebounds

Adding strong post play and 3-point efficiency together, the Terriers are a scary team that has excelled through the SoCon this season.

The Terriers rank second in the country in 3-point percentages 41.6 percent, behind only Lehigh, which could make them a candidate for a few upsets.

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