Six North Carolina teams had their names called on Selection Sunday and now are prepping for the 2018 NCAA tournament that starts today and tomorrow for some, but on Thursday and Friday for most. Of the six, three automatic qualifiers came from Davidson, North Carolina Central and UNC Greensboro winning their respective conference tournament. Duke, NC State and North Carolina are in the tournament courtesy of at-large bids after finishing high in the ACC standing this season.
Here’s what the six teams face in their first games of the NCAA tournament that starts this week listed in alphabetical order.
After winning the Atlantic 10 Conference tournament against Rhode Island on Sunday, the Wildcats return to the NCAA tournament for their 14th appearance and the ninth under coach Bob McKillop, and face off with fifth-seeded Kentucky in the South region. No. 12 Davidson has won eight of its last nine games and tip off against Kentucky is set for Thursday at 7:10 p.m.
Three Davidson players are averaging more than 13 points a game this season. Senior forward Peyton Aldridge is averaging 21 points and nearly eight boards a game and was named co-Player of the Year in the conference. Freshman Kellan Grady was named the conference’s freshman of the year after scoring 16 points a game this season.
Kentucky won the SEC tournament this past weekend as the fourth seed and features a roster full of the nation’s top freshmen talents with Kevin Knox averaging 16 points per game and guard Shai Gilgeous-Alexander averaging almost 14 points per game.
The winner takes on either No. 4 Arizona or No. 13 Buffalo in the second round in Boise.
The Blue Devils were selected as the No. 2 seed in the Midwest region and take on Iona in the first round in Pittsburgh. Duke was bounced from the ACC tournament in the semifinals by North Carolina, and is making its 23rd consecutive appearance in the NCAA tournament. The game tips off at 2:45 p.m. on Thursday.
The Gaels finished fourth in the Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference regular-season standings, and beat Fairfield, the six-seed in the tournament, in the championship, 83-71. Five players come in averaging more than 10 points a game, led by junior guard Ricky McGill.
The second round pits the winner of this contest with the winner from the Rhode Island and Oklahoma matchup.
The Eagles make their third appearance in the NCAA tournament in the last five seasons under coach LeVelle Moton in the First Four in Dayton tomorrow against Texas Southern. Tipoff is set for 6:40 p.m.
NC Central played the role of Cinderella in the MEAC tournament last week, entering as the No. 6-seed and winning four games in five days to clinch the automatic berth to the NCAA tournament. Junior center Raasean Davis comes in averaging 15 points and eight rebounds a game for the Eagles.
Last year, NC Central was beat by UC Davis in the First Four.
The winner of this game will move on to play No. 1 seed Xavier in the West Region in Nashville, Tenn. on Friday
Kevin Keatts is heading to his third straight NCAA tournament after guiding the Wolfpack to the tournament in his first season. NC State is the No. 9-seed in the Midwest and takes on No. 8 Seton Hall in Wichita, Kan., on Thursday at 4:30 p.m.
The Pirates came in third in the Big East Conference and have four players averaging more than 13 points a game. Senior Desi Rodriguez leads the team at 17.8 points per game and Angel Delgado is averaging a double-double at 13 points and 11 rebounds a game.
The Wolfpack lost in their opening game of the ACC tournament against Boston College last week and finished in a tie for third in the league.
The winner faces off with either top-seeded Kansas or No. 16 Penn in the second round of the Midwest bracket.
The defending national champions were awarded the No. 2 seed in the West region and could play their first two games on home soil in Charlotte. After coming up short to Virginia in the ACC tournament championship, North Carolina takes on 15th-seeded Lipscomb making its first NCAA tournament appearance. Tipoff is set for 2:45 p.m. on Friday.
The Bison have won their last eight games and 12 of their last 13, including a perfect run through the Atlantic Sun Conference tournament that was capped off with a 108-96 win over Florida Gulf Coast. Leading the way for Lipscomb is Matthew Garrison, who led the conference in scoring at 22 points per game, and Rob Marberry averaging 16 points a contest. Both juniors were named first-team all-conference.
North Carolina is 33-1 in NCAA tournament games in the state of North Carolina, including an 11-0 mark in Charlotte.
The winner of the matchup gets either No. 7 seed Texas A&M or No. 10 seed Providence in the second round.
The Spartans are in the NCAA tournament for the first time since 2001 and take on No. 4 Gonzaga in Boise, Idaho, at 1:30 p.m. on Thursday. UNCG is the 13 seed in the West.
Winners of the Southern Conference tournament, UNCG has set a program record for wins in a season at 27 behind the play of junior guard Francis Alonso and senior forward Marvin Smith. The pair are the only two averaging in double figures scoring this season.
After coming up a game short of a national title last year to North Carolina, Gonzaga won the West Coast Conference tournament and is making its 20th straight appearance in the NCAA tournament. The Bulldogs are averaging 84 points a game this season, with five players scoring more than 11 point a game on average.
The winner faces either No. 5 Ohio State or No. 12 South Dakota State in the second round.
Jonathan Bym can be reached at 910-816-1977 or by email at [email protected] Follow him on Twitter @Jonathan_Bym.