Six NC teams have a chance to win a national championship. Here’s who they are.

NC State's Saniya Rivers reacts following a basket in the ACC Tournament this month. The Wolfpack women figure to have a good chance to win it all this year. (Photo by Lance King/Getty Images)

By Billy Ball

March 18, 2024

The UNC men and NC State women figure to have the best shot, but don’t count any of these teams out. There’s a reason they call it March Madness.

Who’s hoping for a NC team to bring home a National Championship? 

Six NC teams received invites to compete in the NCAA Tournament, beginning this week. That’s three each from the men’s and women’s side, and they happen to be from the same universities: UNC-Chapel Hill, NC State, and Duke. 

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The oddsmakers figure the UNC men and the NC State women have the best chance, but nobody gave NC State much of a chance during their 1983 run for the title so everyone has a chance. There’s a reason they call it March Madness.

Here’s what to know about each team:

Men

UNC (#1 in the West)

The Tar Heels had a better season than anyone might have figured, winning the ACC regular season championship with a squad that keyed on defense and rebounding.

Senior R.J. Davis won ACC Player of the Year, and Coach Hubert Davis won ACC Coach of the Year. Center Armando Bacot is a human double-double who feels like he’s been in college for a decade—because COVID offered another year of eligibility. 

 

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Duke (#4 in the South)

Only a team with this kind of history would consider this season a disappointment.

Duke was a favorite to win the ACC and contend for a national championship. It helps having an all-world center Kyle Filipowski and loads of high-profile recruits. They finished 2nd in the ACC, but stumbled in the ACC Tournament. Still, with this kind of talent, they have a shot to win it all. You’d be goofy to say otherwise.

NC State (#11 in the South)

It’s hard to believe that, until they stormed through the ACC Tournament last week and upset the likes of Duke, Virginia, and UNC, the Wolfpack was on the verge of a total rebuild. 

They were mediocre in the regular season, and that’s putting it nicely. Coach Kevin Keatts’ job was in jeopardy. But, facing a win-or-go-home ACC Tournament, they just kept winning and looked good doing it. 

It was no fluke. The Pack are legit, and we promise that Duke—much less any of the high seeds in the tournament—wants to play these guys. 

 

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Women

NC State (#3 in the Portland 4 region)

The Pack women are one of the best teams in women’s college basketball now. Year after year, they’ve proven that, even if they have yet to claim a national title. This year, they have as good a chance as any.

They tied for second in the ACC behind a 27-6 record. Saniya Rivers, Mimi Collins and River Baldwin make them a threat. 

Duke (#7 in the Portland 3 region)

The Duke women are always in the competition to win it all. They’ve been the runner-up twice. This year, their balanced team finished 7th in a loaded ACC.

Junior guard Reigan Richardson, who’s from Charlotte, is their leading scorer, with the ability to put up big numbers any night. She had several games with 20+ points. If she goes off, they have a chance to go deep.

 

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UNC (#8 in the Albany 1 region)

Another blue-blood, another chance to win it all. The Tar Heels aren’t the favorites, and being seeded in the same region as undefeated South Carolina feels like a curse. But with the kind of talent they have, UNC is a threat. They finished 7th in the ACC. 

Senior guard Deja Kelly is a problem for opposing teams, putting up big points and averaging more than 16 a game. All-around guard Alyssa Utsby is a nightmare, stuffing the stat sheet in points, rebounds, blocks, steals, and assists. 

If South Carolina sleeps on UNC, they’ll go home.

Author

  • Billy Ball

    Billy Ball is Cardinal & Pine's senior community editor. He’s covered local, state and national politics, government, education, criminal justice, the environment and immigration in North Carolina for almost two decades, winning state, regional and national awards for his reporting and commentary.

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