NCAA Tournament Predictions: Can UNC-Wilmington upset Duke?

Duke guard Derryck Thornton (12) and Duke guard Grayson Allen (3) react as they walk to the bench for a time out during the first half of an NCAA college basketball game in the Atlantic Coast Conference tournament against Notre Dame, Thursday, March 10, 2016, in Washington. (AP Photo/Alex Brandon)

It’s March Madness, the greatest time of the year. Looking for some help with your bracket? Don’t know which teams to believe in, in this crazy college hoops season? We’ve got your back. We’re breaking down every first-round game in the field of 68, plus looking ahead at which teams will make the run to the Final Four.

North Carolina's Brice Johnson (11) guards Duke's Brandon Ingram (14) during the second half of an NCAA college basketball game in Durham, N.C., Saturday, March 5, 2016. North Carolina won 76-72. (AP Photo/Gerry Broome)
North Carolina’s Brice Johnson (11) guards Duke’s Brandon Ingram (14) during the second half of an NCAA college basketball game in Durham, N.C., Saturday, March 5, 2016. North Carolina won 76-72. (AP Photo/Gerry Broome)

4. Duke (23-10, 11-7/ACC)–Big shocker that Duke was given a favorable region, right? The Blue Devils never get those sort of advantages in March (James Harden eyeroll). Regardless, we think the defending champs are beatable, though we’d like their chances in a Sweet 16 matchup with Oregon.

This wasn’t an all-time great Duke team, and it struggled in the tough ACC, losing games to Clemson, Pittsburgh, Louisville, Syracuse and Notre Dame. But, the Devils were lifted by a breakout season from J.J. Redick Jr.—er—Grayson Allen. The 6-5 sophomore guard is an All-American candidate, and he put up 21.6 points, 4.5 rebounds and 3.6 assists per game. 6-9 freshman Brandon Ingram is also a terrific player, averaging 16.8 points and 6.8 boards per game this season. Ingram even elevated himself into the conversation for the No. 1 pick in this year’s NBA Draft for a little while. It’ll still be Simmons, but Ingram will be a top-five selection based on his length and skill alone.

We could see this Duke team making a run to the Elite Eight, but it probably doesn’t have enough quality depth to get much further than that.

KEY STATS:

81.5 points per game (17th)

72.1 points allowed (182nd)

UNC Wilmington guard Chris Flemmings (1) grabs the ball against Hofstra forward Rokas Gustys (11) during the second half of an NCAA college basketball game in the Colonial Athletic Association Championship, Monday, March 7, 2016, in Baltimore. UNC Wilmington won 80-73 in overtime. (AP Photo/Nick Wass)
UNC Wilmington guard Chris Flemmings (1) grabs the ball against Hofstra forward Rokas Gustys (11) during the second half of an NCAA college basketball game in the Colonial Athletic Association Championship, Monday, March 7, 2016, in Baltimore. UNC Wilmington won 80-73 in overtime. (AP Photo/Nick Wass)

13. UNC-Wilmington (25-7, 14-4/CAA)–The Seahawks are back in the big dance for the first time since 2006, after storming back from ten down to knock off top-seeded Hofstra in the CAA title game. UNC-Wilmington uses a small lineup, defends really well, and plays at an above-average pace.

The team’s top five scorers are all 6-5 or smaller, including three–Denzel Ingram (12.5 ppg), Craig Ponder (11.1) and Jordan Talley (8.6 ppg) who are 6-1 or smaller. 6-5 junior guard Chris Flemmings (16.1 ppg, 5.9 rpg) leads the team in scoring. The Seahawks do have a little bit of size in seven-footer C.J. Gettys, who averages 15 minutes per game.

KEY STATS:

37.6 rpg (102nd)

79.2 ppg (42nd)

PREDICTION: Yes, Duke has been beaten in the first round a couple of times recently, falling victim to teams no one believed had a shot (Mercer and Lehigh). But we don’t think UNC-Wilmington has this upset in them this year. The Seahawks won’t be able to deal with Duke’s length, and will have trouble keeping them off the glass. This Duke team isn’t vintage, but once again, it was gifted a very favorable bracket by the selection committee because the Blue Devils draw ratings. Despite that, we think Baylor has what it takes to knock them out in round 2.

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