For the first time since 2014 – and only the second time ever – all four of the Triangle's Division I teams made the NCAA tournament this year. In 2014, none of them made it out of the first weekend. That was the absolute worst-case scenario, from Duke losing to Mercer in Raleigh to Central drawing a tough 2 seed in Iowa State to N.C. State's unforgettable implosion against St. Louis.
A year later, the Triangle got pretty close to a best-case scenario: North Carolina evaded early upset threats from Harvard and Arkansas to make it to the Sweet 16, where it lost to a 1 seed; N.C. State upset Villanova to make it to the Sweet 16, even if it lost in agonizing fashion there; Duke won the national title.
So how could things fall this year?
North Carolina (2, West)
KenPom probabilities: Final Four 25.8%, title 5.7%
Best-case scenario: The Tar Heels face no geographic disadvantage in Los Angeles against Michigan and either Xavier or Ohio State, get to their third straight Final Four, get their revenge on Virginia and get another shot at either Duke or Villanova in the title game.
Worst-case scenario: While Roy Williams has never lost an opening-round game and has a terrific NCAA record in North Carolina, both Texas A&M and Providence are experienced and talented. Neither would be easy.
Most likely scenario: The Tar Heels make it to Los Angeles but are tripped up there by Michigan or Gonzaga, two disciplined offensive teams. There's no reason, though, why North Carolina can't get to San Antonio.
KenPom probabilities: Final Four 36.9%, title 12.1%
Best-case scenario: With as much raw talent, if not more, than any team in the country, the Blue Devils overwhelm their opponents with offensive firepower and get a little bracket luck to avoid playing Michigan State /and/ Kansas /and/ Villanova /and/ Virginia on their way to a national title.
Worst-case scenario: As was the case in 2007, 2008, 2012, 2014 and 2017, the Blue Devils fail to make it out of the first weekend. The switch to zone seems like enough to avoid any catastrophic breakdowns against Iona, but both Rhode Island and Oklahoma are capable of ending Duke's season early.
Most likely scenario: If the Blue Devils can get past Michigan State in the Sweet 16, there's no reason why they can't get to San Antonio and have a chance at their third national title in nine years. The past two times Duke made the Final Four, it won.
N.C. State (9, Midwest)
KenPom probabilities: Second round, 44.5%, Sweet 16, 15.8%
Best-case scenario: Take care of business against Seton Hall, pull off yet another upset in a season full of them to beat Kansas in Kansas and let the chips fall where they may after that. It happened in 2012 and 2015, so the Wolfpack is due for a repeat.
Worst-case scenario: The lackluster first half against Boston College is followed by a similar letdown against Seton Hall and the Wolfpack follows its breakthrough regular season with a pair of disappointing postseason losses in eminently winnable games.
Most likely scenario: Kansas does occasionally lose in Kansas, but not often. A tournament win would be an appropriate reward for N.C. State's growth and progress in Kevin Keatts' first season, and no one will hold a loss to the Jayhawks against the Wolfpack.N.C. Central (16, West)
KenPom probabilities: First round: 38%, second round 0.6%
Best-case scenario: Beat Texas Southern in Dayton and put up a good fight against Xavier. It's a lot to ask of a team that finished sixth in the MEAC to beat the second-best team in the Big East, but a close game would give LeVelle Moton a terrific recruiting platform going forward – or vault him into a bigger job.
Worst-case scenario: A loss in the First Four – the Eagles' second straight – would not only deprive the program of the opportunity to match itself against Xavier but cost the MEAC millions of dollars in tournament revenue.
Most likely scenario: The Eagles gut out a win over Texas Southern and take a swing against Xavier but fall short, nevertheless further cementing N.C. Central's position as the MEAC's power program, especially with Hampton departing.
Sports columnist Luke DeCock: 919-829-8947, firstname.lastname@example.org, @LukeDeCock