State Now

NC State coaching target, UNCW’s Keatts, out of NCAA tournament

Bad news for UNCW could turn into good news for N.C. State.

The Seahawks dropped their first-round game to Virginia, 76-71 on Thursday afternoon, and have been eliminated from the NCAA tournament.

UNCW coach Kevin Keatts is one of the top targets in N.C. State’s coaching search. One of the problems in N.C. State’s last coaching search was that its top target, Shaka Smart, kept winning in the tournament and kept N.C. State on hold.

N.C. State athletic director Debbie Yow said when she made the decision to fire Mark Gottfried a month ago that her primary candidates would be in the NCAA tournament and the search couldn’t heat up until her targets had been eliminated.

Keatts, 44, has led the Seahawks to the NCAA tournament the past two seasons and has won a share of the Colonial Athletic Association regular-season title in each of his three seasons. A longtime head coach at Hargrave Military Academy in Chatham, Va., Keatts was an assistant at Louisville for three seasons before taking over at UNCW in 2014.

UNCW (29-6), a No. 12 seed, led at the half, 30-29, and by as many as 15 in the first half, but senior guard London Perrantes scored 24 points to lead the fifth-seeded Cavaliers to a five-point win.

Keatts and Virginia Commonwealth coach Will Wade are two of N.C. State’s top targets. VCU, a No. 10 seed, faces No. 7 Saint Mary’s at 7:20 p.m. on Thursday night (TBS).