Introducing Cinderella: UNC Wilmington Seahawks are headed to the NCAA tournament
Coach: Kevin Keatts
Record: 29-5, 15-3 (1st)
Ratings and Rankings:
– Kenpom: 63
– RPI: 33
– AP/USA Today: N/A
Seeding: UNC Wilmington, had they lost to Charleston in the final of the CAA tournament, would’ve had something of an argument to get an at-large bid to the NCAA tournament. I don’t think they would have been on the right side of the bubble, but there would have been a push to get them in the same way there was a push to get Murray State in. They have six top 100 wins, four of which came away from home, and they’re 29-5 on the season. They might even be able to get up to a No. 12 seed, where they will be such a trendy 5-12 upset pick.
Names you need to know: The best player on this team is probably Chris Flemmings, who has a phenomenal story, joining the program as an unrecruited walk-on transfer from a Division II program who recruited the coaching staff. But sophomore wing C.J. Bryce is going to be a star in the CAA for a long time, and point guard Denzel Ingram is one of the most entertaining players in the country at this level.
Stats you need to know: Head coach Kevin Keatts is a Rick Pitino disciple and plays a style that will invoke memories of Shaka Smart’s VCU teams. They press, they run and they force turnovers. They also lead the nation in offensive turnover percentage, meaning they protect the ball better than anyone, but they also are a train wreck defensively if they don’t force a turnover. In other words, they are going to be a fun team to watch.
Big wins, bad losses: Losses to Elon and William & Mary, combined with the fact that UNCW’s best win is probably St. Bonaventure, is what forced them into needing the automatic bid.
How’d they get here?: This is the second straight season that the Seahawks are headed to the NCAA tournament, and they did it by storming through the CAA with a 15-3 mark before beating Delaware, William & Mary and Charleston in the league tournament.
Outlook: I think this team has a very real chance of pulling an upset in the first round. It’s going to depend on matchups, as it always does, but UNCW gave Duke a fight in last year’s first round and this team is better than that team.
How do I know you?: They are the proud owners of one of my favorite NCAA tournament dunks of all-time: