Duke, UNC, Davidson set to play in men’s NCAA Tournament
North Carolina is sending three of its men’s college basketball teams to the NCAA Tournament this season.
For Duke, it’s the last Big Dance for head coach Mike Krzyzewski. Coach K has guided the Blue Devils to five national championships and hopes that this final March run ends with his sixth.
The Tar Heels at UNC-Chapel Hill made a run late in the regular season to put themselves in position to receive an at-large bid to the tournament. This will be the 11th consecutive trip to March Madness for UNC, but the first under coach Hubert Davis. As a player under Dean Smith, Davis played in a Final Four for UNC in 1991.
And Davidson is headed back to the NCAA Tournament for the first time since 2018, and 10th time in the 32-season tenure of coach Bob McKillop. Fans of the Wildcats hope they can advance out of the tournament’s opening weekend for the first time since 2008, when Steph Curry powered Davidson to a historic Elite Eight appearance.
Let’s take a closer look at each of the men’s teams from North Carolina playing in the 68-team bracket:
- Seed: No. 2 in the West Region
- Coach: Mike Krzyzewski (42nd season)
- Top Player: Paolo Banchero (17 points, 7.8 rebounds per-game)
- First Game: Friday, March 18 vs. Cal State Fullerton
The storybook season that many Duke fans envisioned for final send-off for Mike Krzyzewski isn’t going quite as planned. The Blue Devils fell in Coach K’s final home game at Cameron Indoor Stadium – to their bitter rivals, the UNC Tar Heels – and then lost in the ACC title game, upset by Virginia Tech.
Still, the Blue Devils have a chance to capture the ultimate trophy as a going away gift to Coach K: a national championship. For Duke, the road to that begins in Greenville, South Carolina, on Friday, where they’ll face 15th-seeded Cal State Fullerton.
As Blue Devils fans know, they can’t overlook these lower seeded teams. Duke was beaten by No. 15 Lehigh in 2012, and No. 14 Mercer in 2014. Cal State Fullerton has won seven of its last eight games. Should Duke win, it’ll face the winner of Michigan State and Davidson. Krzyzewski is 12-3 all-time against Michigan State’s Tom Izzo.
- Seed: No. 8 in the East Region
- Coach: Hubert Davis (1st Season)
- Top Player: Armando Bacot (16.5 points, 12.5 rebounds per-game)
- First Game: Thursday, March 17 vs. Marquette
The Tar Heels went 1-1 in last week’s ACC Tournament in Brooklyn, beating Virginia before losing to Virginia Tech in the semifinals.
UNC is now focused on the NCAA Tournament, where they’ll travel to Fort Worth, Texas, to face Marquette in a matchup of eight and nine seeds. Coached by Shaka Smart – who guided VCU to an unlikely Final Four berth in 2011 – the Golden Eagles went 19-11 this season, with 11 of those wins coming in Big East play. Should the Tar Heels win, they’ll likely face No. 1 Baylor in their next game.
If the Tar Heels want to advance in the tournament, they’ll need to improve their shooting. UNC made just 11.5% of its shots from three-point range in its ACC tournament loss to Virginia Tech. The Tar Heels are also averaging 12.2 turnovers per-game over their last 10 outings.
- Seed: No. 10 in the West Region
- Coach: Bob McKillop (32nd season)
- Top Player: Luka Brajkovic (14.2 points, 7.2 rebounds per-game)
- First Game: Friday, March 18 vs. Michigan State
Despite falling in the Atlantic 10 Championship to Richmond, the Davidson Wildcats are back in the NCAA Tournament after receiving an at-large bid. Davidson’s resume was bolstered by the fact that it won 15 games in A-10 play, and beat three other tourney-bound teams – Delaware, New Mexico State and Alabama – in non-conference play.
The Wildcats roster has some international flavor, with players hailing from seven different countries. The team’s top scorer, Foster Loyer, is from Michigan, but fellow starters Hyunjung Lee, Sam Mennega and Luka Brajkovic hail from South Korea, New Zealand and Austria, respectively. Davidson also has players from England, Denmark and Iceland. Brajkovic was named A-10 Player of the Year this season.
Should Davidson pull off an upset over Michigan State, it will face Duke the second round. Bob McKillop is 0-4 all-time vs. Krzyzewski. The Wildcats and Blue Devils haven’t played since 2013.