Previewing men's college basketball in the Triangle for the 2021-22 season
Men’s college basketball will look a bit different this year in the Triangle.
And just up the road at Duke, longtime Blue Devils’ head coach Mike Krzyzewski is preparing for his own retirement. This will be the last season for Coach K, who has won more games than any other coach in Division I men’s college basketball.
The season could be eventful for N.C. State and N.C. Central too, as both teams aim to play their way back into the NCAA tournament.
Here’s a quick look at each team as the season gets underway.
- Record Last Season: 13-11 (9-9 ACC)
- Head Coach: Mike Krzyzewski (42nd season)
- Top Player: Paolo Banchero (Freshman, Forward)
After missing the NCAA tournament last season for the first time since 1995, the Blue Devils have reloaded and they’re aiming to win it all in Krzyzewski’s final season on the bench. Duke added three of the nation’s top recruits to this team, including the 6-foot-10 Banchero, who is expected to be Duke’s latest player to spend just a season in Durham before becoming a top NBA draft pick. In the ACC’s preseason poll, Duke was projected to win the conference and Banchero was pegged as the preseason Player of the Year. Coach K’s final campaign begins Tuesday night at Madison Square Garden, where No. 9 Duke faces No. 10 Kentucky.
- Record Last Season: 18-11 (10-6 ACC)
- Head Coach: Hubert Davis (1st Season)
- Top Player: Armando Bacot (Junior, Forward)
Just four days after Williams announced his retirement following 33 seasons in college basketball, UNC tapped Davis to replace him. The Tar Heels’ contest against Loyola-Maryland on Tuesday night will be the first time Davis has been the head coach in a college basketball game, but the former All-ACC guard spent nine years as Williams’ top assistant. The 50-year-old Davis is the first Black head coach of the program and just the sixth head coach of the team since 1953. UNC returns five of its top seven scorers from last season’s team, which made the NCAA tournament. New to the roster is Dontrez Styles, a top recruit from Kinston, and Dawson Garcia, a transfer from Marquette. The Tar Heels are ranked No. 19 in the preseason AP Top 25 Poll and are expected to compete for the ACC title.
- Record Last Season: 14-11 (9-8)
- Head Coach: Kevin Keatts (5th season)
- Top Player: Manny Bates (Junior, Forward)
The Wolfpack were picked to finish ninth in the preseason ACC poll, which is to say, most folks aren’t expecting N.C. State to compete for the conference crown this year. However, the Wolfpack bring back four players who started more than half of their games last season in Bates, Jericole Hellems, Thomas Allen and Cam Hayes. N.C. State also brought in freshman Terquavion Smith, a native of Greenville who was named the 2021 North Carolina Gatorade Player of the Year and North Carolina Mr. Basketball. Casey Morsell also joins the Wolfpack via transfer from Virginia. N.C. State went to the NIT quarterfinals last season and are looking to make their second NCAA tournament appearance under Keatts.
- Record Last Season: 5-9 (3-5 MEAC)
- Head Coach: LeVelle Moton (13th season)
- Top Player: Randy Miller Jr. (Senior, Guard)
Before the pandemic forced the cancelation of the remainder of the 2019-20 season, Moton had guided the Eagles to three straight NCAA tournament appearances. They’re aiming to get back to their winning ways this season with a roster that looks almost completely new. The Eagles lost 11 players from last season’s roster – the most ever during Moton’s tenure – and replaced them with nine transfers and a freshman. One of those transfers is Miller, who is back at N.C. Central for his second stint after spending a year at Indiana State. Other transfers include Eric Boone of Georgia Southern, Kris Monroe of Providence, and Marque Maultsby of New Hampshire. The Eagles’ season begins Tuesday night at Richmond.