The Madness Before March

Even though it is not quite March Madness time yet, college basketball is still as competitive as ever. Duke and UNC are already dominating the game, while NC State is close behind. All three teams have lost one of their lead players in the last year due to them being seniors but still manage to keep up with the competition.

After making the NCAA Tournament last season, the Wolfpack look to expand on last year’s success in coach Kevin Keatts’ second year. The team only returns three players from last year’s roster, so the hope is that Kevin Keatts’ coaching can lead the Wolfpack back to the postseason. After getting off to a hot start, the Wolfpack beat then-ranked Auburn for their best win of the season. They played close games against UNC, Louisville, and Virginia, all top 20 opponents, and at one point N.C. State was ranked in the AP Top 25. By far, the Pack’s worst loss was a 71-67 defeat at Wake Forest, a team that is 3-10 in the ACC. Currently, the Wolfpack are in the middle of the ACC standings with a 6-7 conference record. The team is currently led by guard Torin Dorn, who is averaging 13.8 points per game, and point guard Markell Johnson, who is averaging 4.3 assists per game. The Pack could get better on defense, where they currently allow an average of 70.9 points per game, which ranks 166 in the nation. To be fair, the Wolfpack’s early conference schedule has been tough. They played ranked teams in Virginia, Duke, UNC (twice), Virginia Tech and Louisville, all teams ranked in the top 25 (3 ranked in the top 10). The Pack should have the opportunity to pick up wins in their upcoming schedule against four of the five lowest ranked teams in the ACC. The Wolfpack takes on Boston College at home on February 20 at 7:00pm, and they face Wake Forest at home on Sunday, February 24.

After last year’s 11-2 conference play and being fifth in the top 25, UNC expects to have a good 2018-19 season. UNC’s best win this season so far was against Duke on February 20. The Tarheels won 88-72 in Durham. This is a big deal because Duke is ranked third in the country, and this was the latest chapter in the long rivalry. UNC’s worst loss was to Louisville, 83-62. The loss was shocking considering Louisville is ranked eighteenth and UNC is a top 10 team. The 21 point loss to Louisville in Chapel Hill was the worst under coach Roy Williams. UNC has a couple people who carry the team. Cameron Johnson is a guard who averages 16.7 points a game. Luke Maye also helps carry the team with an average of 15.1 points per game. Freshman point guard Coby White helps bring the team to victory with an average of 15.2 points per game. The whole team scores an average of 87.1 points per game, one of the best marks in the country. UNC has had a good season so far. They have only lost twice in conference and beat the top ranked team in the country (at the time). So far, UNC has won 11 games and has two games coming up against Syracuse and Clemson (both are not ranked in the top 25). UNC goes against Syracuse on Tuesday  February 26 at 9:00pm. They also take on Clemson Saturday March 2 at 6:00pm.

Last season, Duke basketball finished with a conference record of 13-5. Duke is currently ranked third in the nation with a 12-2 conference record. They were previously ranked first, but the loss against UNC, along with the loss of star freshman Zion Williamson, made them drop to third. Duke’s best wins so far this season came against Virginia (twice), who are ranked second in the country. Duke’s worst loss was at home against Syracuse, 95-91. Even though it was a close game, Syracuse is not ranked this year, while Duke is a top five team. One of Duke’s top performers is Zion Williamson. He considered the number one pick in the upcoming NBA draft, and he scores on average 22 points a game. Duke has had a pretty good season so far as well. They have won 12 games and only lost 2 in conference. Duke hopes to continue their winning season habits into March Madness. Their next game is at Virginia Tech at 7:00 pm on February 26, and they face Miami on March 2. 

As the season comes to a close, some teams have made progress and some still have room to grow. All three teams are currently projected to make the NCAA Tournament.

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