March Sadness: Can Wake Forest, East Carolina Turn Things Around?

March Sadness: Can Wake Forest, East Carolina Turn Things Around?
Fact Checked by Thomas Leary

With March Madness fully wrapped up and the champion crowned, it was a fun month full of games for many fans to enjoy, and perhaps next year there will be North Carolina sports betting added to the mix. However, there were some fanbases sitting on their couch still longing for meaningful games in March.

Two of those fan bases are from East Carolina and Wake Forest. It’s tough being a basketball fan in North Carolina. If Duke and UNC don’t win national titles, the season is a failure. But at the other end of the basketball spectrum, ECU and Wake are just looking for any tournament love.

Utilizing, created a point system to determine the saddest college basketball programs in March since 2010. The point system awarded one point per NCAA Tournament appearance and one point for each round made (i.e. seven points for winning a Championship to 0 points for First Four).

For research purposes, we cut the pool of NCAA men’s teams to Power 5 conferences, as well as the American Athletic, Big East, Atlantic 10 and Mountain West. 

Teams Experiencing March Sadness

Rank Schools Points
T1Air Force, Boston College, DePaul, Duquesne, East Carolina, Fordham, San Jose State, Tulane, Washington State0
T10Fresno State, Nebraska, George Washington, UMass2
T14Central Florida, George Mason, Rutgers, South Florida, Southern Methodist3
T19Boise State, Georgia, La Salle, Mississippi State, Northwestern, Rhode Island, Stanford, St. Bonaventure, St. Josephs, Wake Forest4
T29Georgia Tech, Penn State, St. Johns5

Wake Has Only One Direction To Go

Wake Forest has only made one NCAA Tournament appearance since 2010 and that was a 2017 first round loss to Kansas State as an 11-seed. This from a team that went Dance-ing every year from 1991-1997 and from 2001-2005, under head coaches Dave Odom and Skip Prosser. Of course, having future NBA greats like Tim Duncan and Chris Paul helped.

The Demon Deacons haven’t been to the NIT much either, making it only once since a 2006 first round loss to Minnesota — that was last year with a run to the quarterfinals.

Under Coach Steve Forbes, Wake has gone from bad to respectable, but odds to make March Madness out of the ACC is tough. Last year’s 25-10, 13-7 team should have been an at-large pick, but a first-round overtime loss in the ACC Tournament to Boston College put them on the bubble. When lower-ranked Virginia Tech won the ACC, Wake was relegated to the last out group and headed to the NIT.  

This past season, Wake went 19-14, 10-10, and ended the season losing four of their last five. 

The bad thing for Wake is that it was one of the more experienced teams in D1 this past season, starting two seniors. Wake will be losing star PG Tyree Appleby to graduation but is excited about picking up Central Michigan PG Kevin Miller in the transfer portal. Miller is coming off an injury after making the MAC all-freshman team in 2021-22. 

Wake, however, is losing three players in the portal in 7-0 junior Davion Bradford, 6-6 sophomore Lucas Taylor and 6-4 sophomore Robert McCray, who redshirted this season after playing sparingly as a freshman.

Incoming freshman include 6-6 Aaron Clark, likely the key to the class, a shooting guard from Brewster Academy, 6-4 Parker Friedrichsen from Bixby, Oklahoma, and 6-8 Marqus Marion from Denmark. 

It’s hard to see Wake being better next year, and the good folks at DraftKings agree. The Deacons currently are +25000 to win the 2024 national championship. 

When the state does launch mobile sports betting, expect DraftKings Sportsbook North Carolina to join the market. 

Then For The Pirates...

Times have been much tougher for East Carolina, a team that hasn’t made the NCAA Tournament since 1993 and has never won a game in March Madness. In 2022, the Pirates went 15-15, 6-11 in the fourth year under Coach Joe Dooley. 

This past year, under new coach Mike Schwartz, they went 16-17, 6-12. Since ECU joined the American Athletic Conference in 2015, the team has never finished higher than eighth, and their best recent finish was a fourth place in Conference USA in 2013, when they went on to win the post-season CIT Tournament.

This past season the Pirates were very young, so maybe better times are coming. But they’re going to need some serious Pirate treasure to compete in the AAC, although the conference will get a little easier with the departure of Houston, Cincinnati and Central Florida to the Big 12. Unfortunately for ECU, Florida Atlantic, North Texas, UAB, Rice and Charlotte are coming in. 

Incoming recruits Cyr Malonga and Ta’Korrie Faison are unlikely to make the difference, although they will bring needed size to the Pirates. Even though he didn’t play much for the Jayhawks, Kansas PG Bobby Pettiford, from Durham, coming in the transfer portal will be a good addition, but star Javon Small leaving in the portal will be a big loss. 

If the Pirates hope to make the Big Dance anytime soon, they need to get super lucky on the recruiting trail or find a new conference. According to college stats guru Ken Pomeroy, the Pirates haven’t had a Top 100 team in 20+ years. That’s not going to get it done in the AAC, something to keep in mind when monitoring future North Carolina betting apps.

Stick with as the state heads towards legalized mobile sports betting, and in the meantime, keep tabs on the Panthers playoff chances as well.



Howard Gensler
Journalists / Reporter

Howard Gensler is a veteran journalist covering the North Carolina sports betting market for Before his focus on US sports betting, Howard worked at the Philadelphia Daily News, TV Guide and the Philadelphia Inquirer. Howard is also a founding editor of

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