In the fourth installment of our 20ish-part series, Get to Know an Auto-Bid, we examine the UNC-Wilmington Seahawks.
UNC-Wilmington punched their second consecutive ticket to the Big Dance Monday night with a 78-69 win vs. Charleston in the CAA Championship game.
The Seahawks finished with a 29-5 record and a 15-3 CAA mark that earned them the regular season title and the No. 1 seed in the conference tournament. Because the CAA has a pre-determined tournament site, UNCW had to play essentially a road game against Charleston in the championship game.
UNC-Wilmington’s best win of the season came at St. Bonaventure in December. There was some speculation that even if the Seahawks lost Monday night, they could still earn an at-large bid. While their win total is impressive and I hate seeing middle of the road power conference teams get at-large bids over elite mid-major programs, I don’t think UNC-Wilmington’s resume would have been good enough to get in.
However, that does not mean they won’t be one of the most dangerous mid-majors in the tournament.
This will be the sixth NCAA appearance for the Seahawks. Their most recent trip to the dance came last year as a 13-seed and they gave Duke all they could handle before falling to the Blue Devils 93-85.
The Seahawks are led by coach Kevin Keatts who is one of the hottest coaching prospects in the country. Many theorize that he could be the perfect fit at N.C. State, but he has things rolling in Wilmington.
Sidenote, I have been to this campus a few times and while it is not FGCU, it is less than a mile from the beach, not exactly sure how anyone can concentrate on studying with a constant sea breeze in your face.
UNC-Wilmington’s lone tournament win came in 2002, again as a 13 seed, as the Seahawks upset the four-seeded USC Trojans.
The CAA has a penchant for producing teams that make deep runs in March. George Mason and VCU’s final four runs came when those programs competed in the CAA and this year’s UNC-Wilmington squad fits the same mold.
The Seahawks have four players that average at least 12 points per game and they play a fast-paced style that lends itself to high-scoring affairs.
C.J. Bryce leads the team with 17.5 ppg., while Devontae Cook leads the squad with 9.5 rebounds per game.
The Otter Room’s official bracket projections place UNC-Wilmington as an 11-seed, but they have the potential to make it to the second weekend. There is not a team in the country that wants to see the Seahawks in the first round, they have Cinderella written all over them.