NC has chance to flood NCAA tournament

csmith@newsobserver.comFebruary 26, 2013 

Duke, North Carolina and N.C. State have a shot to make it to the NCAA tournament together for the second time in two years.

A number of other teams in the state might join them.

The most teams the state of North Carolina has had in the NCAA tournament in a single year was six, in 2002, when Charlotte, Duke, Davidson, N.C. State, UNC Wilmington and Wake Forest were chosen. That number could be matched or exceeded this season.

Several teams in the state have at least a chance to be chosen this season:

N.C. Central

The Eagles (19-8, 12-1), in just their second year in the MEAC, has a shot at winning a conference title for the first time since 1950.

Behind juniors Jeremy Ingram and Emanuel Chapman, who lead the Eagles with 16.5 points and 6.1 assists per game, respectively, LeVelle Moton’s squad has a realistic shot of taking down one of last year’s Cinderella stories in Norfolk State – which beat No. 2 Missouri last year as a 15 seed.

The Eagles will have to beat Savannah State on Saturday in Durham and hope for Norfolk State to lose a game in order to take the regular-season crown. They will need to win the MEAC tournament in order to make it to the NCAA tournament for the first time in school history.

Charlotte

The 49ers (18-8, 6-6) are familiar to the NCAA tournament, with 11 trips – four since 2000.

After 10 appearances in 17 years from 1988 to 2005, the 49ers haven’t earned a bid in the past seven seasons. In a tough Atlantic-10 Conference that includes Butler, Virginia Commonwealth and a hot Saint Louis team, Charlotte sits at No. 8 in the league.

With wins against No. 11 Butler and Davidson, the 49ers are No. 54 in the RPI rankings and have an outside shot at an at-large bid, but will likely need a strong performance down the stretch and a run in the A-10 tournament to earn a bid to the NCAA tournament.

Davidson and Elon

Two teams fighting for conference supremacy in the Southern Conference are Davidson and Elon. Davidson leads the South side of the conference and the Phoenix control the North side.

With wins against Vanderbilt and West Virginia paired with a tough nonconference schedule that included Gonzaga and Duke, Davidson (21-7, 15-1) appears on track for another trip to the NCAA tournament, but might need to take the conference tournament to ensure the spot.

The Wildcats have never earned an at-large bid to the tournament in their 11 trips.

Elon (19-9, 12-4), is No. 131 in RPI rankings because of losses at Appalachian State and Wofford, so the Phoenix need to take the conference tournament to make it to the NCAA tournament for the first time. The two will square off Wednesday night for bragging rights heading into the conference tournament.

Outside shots

Another team that has played well and has a chance to make the tournament if it wins the Big South tournament is High Point. The Panthers have played their way to the top of the conference at 16-11, 11-3.

They have seven straight wins since dropping their last game against UNC Asheville, which sits at No. 4 in the conference. High Point and UNC Asheville, along with Gardner-Webb, will need to take the Big South tournament if they want a bid, but all three have the chance to finish in the top four of the conference.

Also in the “outside chance” category, East Carolina (16-10, 7-6) will need a lot of things to go right down the stretch to earn a bid to the tournament.

With an offense that ranks 18th in the nation with 76.9 points per game and fifth in assists with 17.2 per game, ECU, which plays in Conference USA, could be a surprise team in March.

Smith: @RCorySmith

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