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By Thomas Gessner
With teams finally playing in their respective conference tournaments, the regular season has come to an end as March Madness begins. Some teams will rise to the occasion and others will see their seasons fizzle out as they fight to earn limited spots in the big dance.
Punched Their Ticket
UNC Greensboro (SoCon Tournament Champions)
On Monday, UNCG pulled off the rare sweep in three meetings against a hungry Mercer team to win the SoCon tournament and cement a spot in the NCAA tournament. The Spartans will not be a particularly high seed, but the squad led by senior guard Isaiah Miller -- a two-time SoCon Player of the Year -- certainly has upset potential and should not be underrated.
Appalachian State (Sun Belt Tournament Champions)
Seemingly out of nowhere, the 4-seed Appalachian State took home the Sun Belt Championship on Monday, beating top-seeded Georgia State. With that victory, the Mountaineers secured a bid to participate in the NCAA tournament, their first appearance in over twenty years. The team was not expected to make it this far, and while they will surely be a very low seed, they’ve already proved that anything can happen.
Still In The Hunt
UNC Chapel Hill (6th Seed, ACC Tournament)
The Tar Heels won handily on Wednesday night against the lower seeded Notre Dame in the second round of the ACC tournament. While UNC finished the season strong and are in good position for a March Madness placement, every win in the ACC tournament helps, and now they look forward to a matchup against the three-seed Virginia Tech.
North Carolina A&T (1st Seed, MEAC Tournament)
North Carolina A&T holds a top-seed in the MEAC, with their first game on Friday against the winner of Norfolk State vs. NC Central. The Aggies have a solid chance to win it all and punch a ticket to March Madness, which would be their first appearance since 2013, an accomplishment on its own.
North Carolina Central (3rd Seed, MEAC Tournament)
NC Central is a three-seed in a weak MEAC, and they will get to play Norfolk State in the second round of the tournament on Thursday. If they win that game, they will have to face fellow North Carolina team NC A&T, who defeated the Eagles in both of their regular season matchups.
Duke (10th Seed, ACC Tournament)
Duke would need to win the ACC tournament to get into the NCAA tournament, and while that seemed highly unlikely, especially after the crushing loss to UNC to close the season, they’ve had very impressive victories against Boston College and Louisville. Their postseason run could run into a wall when the Blue Devils play the Florida State Seminoles on Thursday, however.
East Carolina (11th Seed, AAC Tournament)
On Thursday, East Carolina will be facing six-seed Central Florida, who they previously lost to by just four points. ECU no stranger to pulling off upsets, after defeating then-No. 5 Houston in February, but the Pirates aren’t playing for much other than being a spoiler team.
Season’s All But Over
North Carolina State (Second Round Exit, ACC Tournament)
The Wolf Pack was utterly destroyed by Syracuse on Wednesday in an unexpectedly lopsided 31-point defeat. This is a sad way for NC State’s season to end, but an ending nonetheless.
Campbell (Big South Tournament Runner-Ups)
Campbell was not able to take home gold in the Big South tournament, losing in the championship to Winthrop by 27 points. The Fighting Camels upset higher-seeded Radford to make the final round, and that is an impressive feat in itself considering their slower start to the season and the competitive conference.
Wake Forest (First Round Exit, ACC Tournament)
Wake Forest lost in one of the worst ways on Tuesday, falling to a buzzer-beating three-pointer from Notre Dame in the first round of the ACC tournament, marking a frustrating but poetic end to the Demon Deacons’ season.
Gardner-Webb (Second Round Exit, Big South Tournament)
Gardner-Webb’s season ended their season on Monday with a six-point loss to a superior Campbell team in what was an expected outcome, but it was still a close enough game to keep Bulldog fans excited up until the end.
Western Carolina (First Round Exit, SoCon Tournament)
Western Carolina and the Citadel decided not to play defense in their first round matchup last Friday, with WCU losing by 14 points in a 100-86 game. That lack of defensive effort, combined with the inability to outscore opponents, sums up the Catamount’s season.
Davidson (Semi-Finalists, Atlantic 10 Tournament)
Davidson’s season came to a close in the second round against the talented VCU Rams on Saturday, marking the end of the team’s up and down season. However, Wildcat senior Kellan Grady being named to the All-Conference First Team is something to be proud of.
UNC Asheville (Second Round Exit, Big South Tournament)
Asheville disappointed in the first round of the Big South tournament, losing to the lower seeded Longwood by 16 points, marking an end to an inconsistent season.
UNC Wilmington (First Round Exit, CAA Tournament)
Wilmington lost to William and Mary, another unimpressive team, in the first round of the CAA Tournament on Saturday.
High Point (Second Round Exit, Big South Tournament)
While High Point was able to make it to the second round of the Big South Tournament, they had to face a dominant Winthrop team that would eventually win it all and punch their tickets to the NCAA Tournament.
Elon (CAA Tournament Runner-Ups)
Elon almost pulled off a Cinderella moment in the CAA Tournament, winning three straight games as the eight-seed to make it all the way to the finals, where they fell to another unlikely team, the Drexel Dragons. It is a fun way to end the season for the Phoenix, after a dismal regular season lagged by COVID-19 cancellations.
UNC Charlotte (5th Seed, CUSA Tournament)
Charlotte lost by ten points to UTSA on Wednesday, bringing their disappointing season to an end after going just 9-16. ●
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