Duke, Davidson, UNC prepare for March Madness

UNC coach Hubert Davis makes a point to his players during Friday’s ACC Tournament semifinal game against Virginia Tech. (PJ Ward-Brown / North State Journal)

Duke tops the list of three North Carolina teams in the 2022 NCAA Tournament.

The Blue Devils received a No. 2 seed in the West Region after winning the ACC regular season and advancing to the championship game of the ACC Tournament.

“It’s an exciting day, Selection Sunday. It’s my last one, so it makes it even more exciting,” said Duke coach Mike Krzyzewski, who will be retiring after this season. “To be picked second, a No. 2 seed, it means you’re one of the top eight teams in the country. That’s what the basketball people feel about things. I’m very proud of our team and our support staff. It’s the last time I’m going to be able to do this and to be a No. 2 seed is terrific.”

Duke will open with Cal State Fullerton, who won the Big West Tournament to earn a No. 15 seed. The Titans are 21-10 and will head east, to Greenville, South Carolina, to face the Blue Devils.

This is Duke’s second trip to Greenville for the NCAAs. The Blue Devils were also a No. 2 in 2017 and beat Troy before falling to South Carolina in the second round. It’s Duke’s first NCAA Tournament game in South Carolina since beating North Dakota State and UCF in Columbia in 2019.

The winner of the game will move on to face the winner of No. 7 Michigan State and No. 10 Davidson. The Wildcats earned the 10th seed after losing in the Atlantic 10 title game and getting an at-large berth in the tournament. Davidson is 27-6 and will face the 22-12 Spartans. The second-round game could match up Hall of Fame coaches in Krzyzewski and Michigan State’s Tom Izzo.

The top seed in the region is Gonzaga, which earned the top overall seed in the tournament as well.

The third team from the state to earn a bid is North Carolina, which will be a No. 8 seed in the East. The Tar Heels open in Fort Worth, Texas, against No. 9 Marquette.

This will be UNC’s first tournament game in Fort Worth, which becomes the seventh different Texas city to host a Tar Heels NCAA Tournament game.

“It was really emotional,” first-year UNC coach Hubert Davis said of his first Selection Sunday as coach. “It’s been a great year, and it’s been a long year. Some people think Carolina being in the NCAA Tournament is a given, but it isn’t. I am so proud of what these players have done, they’ve earned the opportunity to play in the NCAA Tournament. Their commitment to each other and our program has earned them that chance to compete in the NCAA Tournament.”

The winner of UNC-Marquette will face the winner of No. 1 seed Baylor and No. 16 Norfolk State.

Greenville will also feature a clash of two former Tar Heels big men. Auburn, No. 2 in the Midwest, opens with No. 15 Jacksonville State. Auburn features Walker Kessler, who transferred after last season’s freshman year at UNC. Jacksonville State is led by Brandon Huffman, who is in his second year with the school after leaving UNC.

Duke transfers in the field include Alex O’Connell (No. 9 Creighton, opens with San Diego State in the Midwest) and Patrick Tape (No. 10 San Francisco, opens with Murray State in the East). Former Davidson standout Kellan Grady is now with Kentucky, which received a No. 2 seed in the East Region.