I’ve got the Keatts the Keatts the Keatts! Boom baby! UNCW is going dancing once again and here I am giving you my first time, bold as hell prediction of UNCW in the Big Dance. Let me be clearer than Barack Obama giving a State of the Union address: UNCW will be an upset team you should pick in the NCAA tournament.
Why? Let’s start with the cold, hard facts. Statistics wise, this team is absolutely nasty. With four of the starting five players averaging double-digit points a game, offense is our strong suit.
Especially the fast paced ball because this team thrives off of that. Well now you’re probably saying, “but defense is what wins ball games!” Slow your roll, Bobby – they’ve got that too! Much like major schools who implement the press *cough* West Virginia, UNCW utilizes this strategy in similar fashion.
But fun fact, our defense forces a turnover on 23% of our opponents possessions. The last time it was truly calculated, UNCW was seventh best in the country for forcing turnovers.
Let’s get a little more granular. Who are the studs on this squad? Let’s start with C.J. Bryce, a six-foot-five, 185 pound guard who can drive and shoot the lights out of the ball. He’s averaging 34 minutes a game and is .488% from field goal range and .322% from the three. Coming in as only a sophomore, he’s one of the major weapons this team has. Next we have Chris Flemmings, who is the true Cinderella story of the program. When his mom walked into Trask Coliseum suggesting that her son (who at the time was playing for a DII school) should be granted an opportunity to play for UNCW, given the current state of the program at the time (9-23 overall and a 3-13 conference record), UNCW listened.
He came out and proved why he should play on this team and for Division I basketball. In just two years this stud has won CAA all-conference player, averages 15.8 points a game and received accolades from coach Mike Krzyzewski himself after the 2015-16 NCAA tournament game against Duke, coming off 18 points.
Wait, there’s more. What happens when you add a six-foot-seven, 240Ib monster to the court? Well, you start winning more; on the boards and in the paint. You heard me right, UNCW’s six-foot-seven, 240Ib, Davontae Cacok, averages 9.6 rebounds a game and is, wait for it, the NCAA leader in field goal percentage with a whopping 80% of points scored in the paint.
Yeah, I wasn’t kidding… Not only does his size and weight play a factor for the Seahawks but the kid’s agility is impressive and he has a great awareness of his surroundings. He’s also only a sophomore, which is even more insane. It wouldn’t be crazy to say that this kid might end up in the league after four years at UNCW. Then we have senior, Denzel Ingram, who is another player averaging double-digit points in a game at 14.2. Measuring him off of pure visual and real-time game play, he adds a level of leadership to the team and is someone who can be trusted to shoot the three-ball when needed. And last but not least, Jordan Talley; an electric player who comes off the bench and adds a completely different level of pace change to the game. I like to think of him as the ‘responder.’ If the other team scores, expect this kid to make a play or respond with a basket right back if he is in the game. So what does all of this mean? We’ve got weapons! But let’s not forget the pioneer that’s made all of this happen: Coach Kevin Keatts.
Former assistant coach to Rick Patino, he 100% without a doubt has been the X-factor we’ve been missing for this basketball program. This coach managed to take 13-win seasons (at best) and transition us into a regular season winners (three years in a row) and conference champions (back-to-back) in just three years. Not to mention two NCAA tournament births since 2006. I remember when it was announced that Keatts would take over as new head coach for the men’s basketball team; I had just graduated and was disappointed that I couldn’t get to experience it while I was still in college.
I knew that something different was going to happen to this basketball program. Immediately, once Keatts was settled in, he started making changes to our current team. He started working our players harder.
He sharpened their mental toughness. He sourced players from junior colleges who he knew had potential and crafted them into the players they are today. Though a few people may not have liked some of the adjustments he was doing to the team at the time, we can certainly look back and say that it was worth it.
Keatts knows what he’s doing and for any team that plans on making an upset in the NCAA tournament, all of the aforementioned is necessary. You heard it here first. UNC Wilmington will pull the upset in this year’s tournament.