Breaking Down March Madness for the Carolinas

By Aaron White

March 14, 2017

The 2017 NCAA Tournament field is set, and seven teams from the Carolinas have been selected to take part in the Big Dance. Here we’ll break down how each team has been able to reach the tournament, and give a prediction on how far they’ll end up going.

North Carolina Tar Heels (#1 Seed, South Region)

UNC is one of the few teams in college basketball that is truly strong on both sides of the floor. They lead the country in rebounding (43.5 per game), and are able to turn those boards into points through good ball control and efficient shooting. Isaiah Hicks and Kennedy Meeks are both forces to be reckon with down low, and Justin Jackson has become a threat from the perimeter. This is undoubtedly one of the best Tar Heel teams in recent memory and if they consistently play up to their potential, Roy Williams could be cutting down the nets for the third time in 12 years.

Prediction: Final Four

Winthrop Eagles (#13 Seed, South Region)

Winthrop is much better than its double-digit seed might indicate. The Eagles have won eight in a row, and the champions of the Big South have reliable scoring from their backcourt. If Winthrop can control the pace of the game, they could give Butler some trouble. If there is one discouraging anecdote for the Eagles, however, it’s that Butler has won its first round game in their last five tournament appearances. No player for Winthrop has been to the tournament before, much less won a game, which could be a major liability for the Eagles against the experienced Bulldogs.

Prediction: Round of 64

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Wake Forest Demon Deacons (#11 Seed, South Region)

Wake Forest is back in the Big Dance for the first time since 2010, and will have to win a play-om game on Tuesday to advance to the round of 64. Wake Forest is one of the more one-sided teams in the tournament this year. While their offense, which features star center John Collins, is stellar, the same can not be said for coach Danny Manning’s defense, which allowed a whopping 77.8 points per game. Assuming Wake Forest wins their play-in game, they would be set to face Cincinnati, a team that is much more well-rounded than the Demon Deacons.

Prediction: Round of 64

Duke Blue Devils (#2 Seed, East Region)

There is no team in the country that is more polarizing than the Duke Blue Devils, and this year that seems to be especially true. Duke’s championship dreams seemed lost halfway though the season, particularly after their home loss to a mediocre NC State team. However, Duke is finally coming into the form that so many expected out of the team during the preseason, beating three top 25 teams in the last three games of the ACC Tournament. While Greyson Allen’s antics often make the headlines, it is the precise shooting of Luke Kennard and the consistent scoring of swingman Jayson Tatum that make the Blues Devils dangerous.

Prediction: Elite Eight

UNC Wilmington Seahawks (#12 Seed, East Region)

The Seahawks have all the makings of a cinderella team. Veteran leadership, a relentless scoring attack, and most importantly, tournament experience, has the CAA champions looking poised for an upset victory in the round of 64. While Virginia is a very tough, defensive-oriented team, the Seahawks ball control and reliable perimeter shooting might just be enough to put them over the Cavaliers.

Prediction: Round of 32

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South Carolina Gamecocks (#7 Seed, East Region)

The Gamecocks are a team that has simply survived to see March Madness, as the team from Columbia has lost six of their last nine games. South Carolina has no obvious strengths, but they do have a sufficient defense that only allows 64 points per game. If the Gamecocks are to make a run in the tournament, it will have to on the back of their star guard Sindarius Thornwell, who averages 21 points and 7 rebounds per game. Even with Thornwell’s production, the Gamecocks have got a tough first round matchup with Marquette, and the Gamecocks seem to have let this season slip away from them.

Prediction: Round of 64

North Carolina Central Eagles (#16 Seed, East Region)

The Eagles are back in the tournament for the second time in school history. Led by guard Patrick Cole, the Eagles have won 25 games this season, largely due to good defensive play and steady rebounding. The Eagles have a very good chance to win their play-in game against a middling UC Davis team. While Kansas is likely the most vulnerable 1 seed in this years tournament, NC Central will be simply outmatched against the Jayhawks.

Prediction: Round of 64

Check out the full 2017 NCAA Tournament Bracket: 

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