Several Carolina teams made it into the NCAA Tournament, a breakdown of their paths ahead

By Jeremy Grandison

March 19, 2024 (updated)

The 2024 NCAA Tournament is finally here, and several teams will represent the Carolinas in the tournament. Duke, UNC, N.C. State, South Carolina, Clemson, and Charleston will gear up for the tough road ahead to win a National Championship. Unfortunately, some Carolina hopefuls like the Wake Forest Demon Deacons didn’t make the cut after some conference tournament upsets broke the bubble, with the most notable being N.C. State’s magical run for the ACC Championship. 

The Appalachian State Mountaineers fell short in the Sun Belt Championship semifinal, losing to Arkansas State 67-65 in a last-minute heartbreaker. Despite the loss, App State finished the season with a 27-6 record, setting a new record for the most wins in program history. The Mountaineers accepted an invite to the 2024 National Invitation Tournament (NIT), and will face top-seeded Wake Forest in the first round. 

The Charlotte 49ers missed out on tournament play after fizzling out in the second half of the season. 49ers Head Coach Aaron Fearne was awarded the full-time position after defeating the No. 17 ranked FAU Owls to give the 49ers their first ranked win since 2013. Charlotte will not compete in the NIT or CBI Tournament, but supporters have a newfound enthusiasm for the direction of the program. 

Charlotte will host March Madness games for the first time since 2018. With the conference’s headquarters being moved to Charlotte in 2023, the Queen City looks to become the new face of ACC basketball. Spectrum Center will host four first-round March Madness games on Thursday with the first game (No. 8 Mississippi State vs. No. 9 Michigan State) tipping off at 12:15 p.m. The 2:45 p.m. slot will showcase the homestate North Carolina Tar Heels facing the winner of the Howard/Wagner game, which will be played on Tuesday. The third game is scheduled for 6:50 p.m., with No. 7 Texas facing the winner of Colorado State and Virginia. To end the evening, the No. 2 Tennessee Volunteers will take on the No. 15 Saint Peter’s Peacocks at 9:20 p.m. Charlotte will also host two games in the second round, both of which are scheduled for Saturday, March 23. 


First-Round NCAA Tournament games in Charlotte on Thursday, March 21:

(8) Mississippi St. vs. (9) Michigan St. (12:15 p.m. on CBS)
(1) UNC vs. (16) Howard/ Wagner (2:45 p.m. on CBS)
(7) Texas vs. (10) Virginia/Colorado St. (6:50 p.m. on TNT)
(2) Tennessee vs. (15) Saint Peter’s (9:20 p.m. on TNT)

Here’s what the road ahead will look like for N.C. State, North Carolina, Duke, South Carolina, and Clemson:

N.C. State

Region: South
Record: 22-14

First-round matchup: (6) Texas Tech at 9:40 p.m. on CBS (Pittsburgh)

The N.C. State Wolfpack had a Cinderella run to become champions of the ACC. Head Coach Kevin Keatts was on the hot seat, after placing 10th in the ACC standings to end the regular season. All the chatter seems to have faded, after State managed to defeat both Duke and UNC on their road to the championship. The Wolfpack are led by seniors DJ Horne, a true three-level scorer, and big man DJ Burns Jr., who has been on a tear in his last two games. They’ll need senior guard Michael O’Connell and junior guard Jayden Taylor to step up their perimeter shooting, as they face an uphill battle in the South Regional bracket, opening up against No. 6 Texas Tech (23-10). They have a daunting road ahead if they were to get out of the first round  with No. 3 Kentucky, No. 7 Florida, and No. 2 Marquette in the same region. The Duke Blue Devils could also be looking to get revenge after the ACC tournament upset, if they were to advance to the Elite 8. 

North Carolina

Region: West
Record: 27-7

First-round matchup: (16) Howard or (16) Wagner at 2:45 p.m. on CBS (Charlotte)

UNC enters the tournament as a No.1 seed in the West. This marks the 18th time the Tar Heels have been a top-ranked seed, the most in NCAA Tournament history. Hubert Davis is the fourth Tar Heel head coach to lead a team to a No. 1 seed, joining Dean Smith (8), Roy Williams (8), and Bill Guthridge (1). UNC relies heavily on their senior leaders RJ Davis and Armando Bacot. Bacot averages a double-double, scoring 14.1 points and 10.2 rebounds per game and Davis leads the ACC in scoring with 21.4 points per game. The Tar Heels come into the tournament as favorites to reach the Final Four, but will most likely have to face No. 4 Alabama, No. 3 Baylor, or No. 2 Arizona to advance out of the West Region of the bracket. 


Region: South
Record: 24-8

First-round matchup: (13) Vermont at 7:10 p.m. on CBS (Brooklyn)

Duke looks to bounce back after losing to N.C. State in the quarterfinals of the ACC Tournament. The Blue Devils are led by sophomore forward/center Kyle Filipowski, a finalist for the Karl Malone Power Forward of the Year Award, who is averaging 17.1 points, 8.2 rebounds, and 1.6 blocks per game. They also have a talented backcourt with senior Jeremy Roach, sophomore Tyrese Proctor, and freshman Jared McCain, who all average double-digits in scoring. Duke will kick off their tournament against No. 13 Vermont and will face the winner of Wisconsin vs. James Madison if they’re able to advance to the second round. A potential rematch of the ACC quarterfinals could take shape, if both N.C. State and Duke advance to the Elite 8. 

South Carolina

Region: Midwest
Record: 26-7

First-round matchup: (11) Oregon at 4 p.m. on TNT (Pittsburgh)

South Carolina enters the tournament with a 26-7 record, tying their mark for most wins in program history (2016-2017). The Gamecocks are led by head coach Lamont Paris, who was named the Associated Press SEC Coach of the Year, after South Carolina was projected by many to finish last in the conference this season. This is the program’s 10th NCAA Tournament appearance and first since their Final Four run in 2017. Ranked No. 6 in the Midwest Region, South Carolina will face No. 11 Oregon in Pittsburgh on Thursday (4 p.m.), and potentially No. 2 Tennessee and No. 7 Texas if they advance. Coach Paris’ brand of efficient halfcourt basketball and fundamentally sound defense will need to be on full display for South Carolina to make another Final Four run. 


Region: West
Record: 21-11

First-round matchup: (11) New Mexico at 3:10 p.m. on truTV (Memphis)

The No. 6 ranked Clemson Tigers are back in the Big Dance for the first time since the 2020-21 season. The Tigers are led by first-team All-ACC senior center PJ Hall, who averaged the second-most points in the ACC (18.8), and was one of just four players in the country averaging at least 18.5 points, 6.5 rebounds, 1.5 assists and 1.5 blocks per game. Clemson will take on No. 11 New Mexico in the first round, and will face the winner of No. 3 Baylor and No. 14 Colgate if they are able to advance. A battle of the Carolinas could potentially take place if Clemson is able to reach the Elite 8, where the Tar Heels will likely be waiting for them. The Tigers will go as far as their three seniors (PJ Hall, Joseph Girard III, and Chase Hunter) can take them with the opportunity to finish their collegiate careers in grand fashion. 

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