It’s that time of the year, folks. March Madness is upon us. The bracket has been revealed, and, despite a huge push on social media, UNCG did not receive an at-large bid.
The one seeds are Duke, North Carolina, Virginia and Gonzaga. Duke is the number one overall seed. Fresh of an ACC Tournament championship over the weekend and with players like Zion Williamson and RJ Barrett in the lineup, the Blue Devils are the favorites to win it all. One knock against Duke is that they are very young and lack tournament experience. We will have to wait and see if they’ll crumble under the pressure.
Duke is in the East region, and they’ll have to play either N.C. Central or North Dakota State. Rounding out the remaining top seeds in the East are Michigan State, LSU and Virginia Tech. The Blue Devils tip off Friday at 7:00 pm on CBS.
UNC is the one seed in the Midwest region. They have more tournament experience than Duke and have some older players on their team, namely senior Luke Maye. The Tar Heel forward averages 14 points per game and 10 rebounds. UNC may have to contend with some tough opponents down the road in the tournament, including two seed Kentucky, three seed Houston and four seed Kansas. The Tar Heels will face off against Iona this Friday at 9:20 pm on TNT.
The Virginia Cavaliers are the one seed in the Midwest, and their first matchup will be against the 16 seed Gardner-Webb Bulldogs. Virginia boasts the play of former Mr. Indiana Basketball guard Kyle Guy, who averages 15 points per game. Other impressive players on their team include center Jack Salt and guard Ty Jerome. As for difficult opponents in their division, they have two seed Tennessee, three seed Purdue and four seed Kansas State to contend with. The Cavaliers will play this Friday at 3:10 pm on truTV.
Gonzaga is the one seed out of the West and will face the winner of Prairie View A&M and Farleigh Dickinson. The Zags may not have won their conference championship, but they’re still one of the most dangerous teams in America. Star forward Rui Hachimura helped lead the way by averaging 20 points per game, and Killian Tillie is a handful for any defender. Two-seed Michigan, three-seed Texas Tech and four-seed Florida State round out the top teams in the West. The Bulldogs will be playing this Thursday at 7:27 pm on truTV.
A few matchups jump out as potential upsets. One is five-seed Mississippi State vs 12-seed Liberty. Liberty finished the regular season with 28 wins, their most since joining Division I. They might not have a “superstar” player like Zion Williamson, but they are well-rounded and can control the flow of the game. Don’t be surprised if Liberty snags a win over the Bulldogs. This matchup will take place on Friday at 7:27 pm on truTV.
Another interesting matchup is three-seed LSU vs 14-seed Yale. LSU endured a devastating loss to Florida in the SEC Tournament and have a host of off-court issues to deal with, including an NCAA investigation and a suspended head coach. Yale is coming off an impressive 12-point win over Harvard to capture the Ivy League crown. If LSU comes out shaky, Yale will pounce and not let up.
Onto our own team. The Spartans were heartbreakingly listed as the first team out of the Big Dance. Looking at the regular season, the G went 28-6 and fell to Wofford in the SoCon Final. UNCG would have gotten into the tournament if it not for one team: the Oregon Ducks. The Ducks had an awful regular season but won the PAC-12 Tournament, thus “stealing” an automatic bid. Had Washington, which earned UNCG’s at-large bid, defeated Oregon in the PAC-12 championship, UNCG would currently be dancing.
This all came despite a heroic social media effort from UNCG Athletics. The hashtag #uncgatlarge took the mid-major college basketball world by storm and earned some national attention from basketball pundits like Jay Bilas. The University even erected a billboard on Gate City with the #uncgatlarge hashtag plastered on it.
There is a silver lining to all of this, though. UNCG gets at least one more game at the Coliseum now, since they’re the number one overall seed in the NIT. In that regard, we’re lucky: We get to see this special, special senior class play once again.