The 31-3 Charleston Cougars have won the CAA Conference Championship and are headed to March Madness with the most wins in the country and the best CAA record of all time.
Did that sneak up on you? Don't worry, as the CAA winner has rarely made noise across the regular college hoops season or the Big Dance. But this team may be built differently.
This will mark their sixth appearance in the NCAA Tournament and their first since 2018. Charleston entered that year as a 13-seed and ended up losing to fourth-seeded Auburn by four points in the first round.
The Cougars punched their ticket to the Madness with a win over UNC Wilmington on Tuesday night, a game the Cougars entered as big favorites due to their dominating season up until that point. Ryan Larson led the way with 23 points in the 63-58 victory that clinched their spot by securing the CAA’s automatic bid into the NCAA Tournament.
With their 31st win, the Cougars currently have the highest win total of any Division I basketball team in the nation. Bracket predictions have them likely to settle in as a 12-seed after Selection Sunday.
With the CAA sending a champion to the NCAA Tournament every year, BetCarolina.com looked at how the past five champions have done to see what kind of chance this Cougars team has in March Madness.
While there will be no online North Carolina sports betting in time for March Madness, there is positive movement in the state. Keep tabs on this site for further updates.
You can also check out how interested the state of North Carolina is in the Big Dance here as well.
Past Five CAA Performances In NCAA Tournament
Why This Team Could Buck The Trend
Delaware lost to Villanova as a 15-seed last year, with Drexel losing as a 16-seed to top ranked Illinois the year prior. Northeastern entered as a 13-seed in 2019, losing big to fourth-ranked Kansas, and Charleston also lost as a 13-seed in 2018, albeit in a much closer game.
History would suggest that the CAA teams are overmatched in March Madness, with the past four CAA champions losing in the first round. But if there was ever a team to break this trend, it would be this year's Cougar squad. Their regular season record is much better than the records of its predecessors into the tournament and their seeding is likely to be better as a result.
How has this team gone about their business? Coach Pat Kelsey has built an old-school squad that plays hard-nosed defense. In fact, the team's leading scorer, senior Dalton Bolon, only averages 12.3 points per game. But the Cougars are 11th nationally in point differential (+13.4) and are the fourth best rebounding team in the nation.
Make no mistake, the Cougars will be the underdog in their opening round game, but this tournament isn’t called March Madness for nothing. Upsets, crazy games and more all contribute to the madness and rarely do things go as expected all tournament long.
Looking at the posted odds for the tournament also suggests Charleston will be in tough competition, as it is +30000 to win the tournament overall at DraftKings Sportsbook. While hoping for that to happen is a tad unrealistic, looking for Charleston to buck the CAA’s trend of losing in the first round is a much more realistic goal Carolina fans and sports bettors will all be rooting for.
Stay close to BetCarolina.com for more March Madness coverage, as well as for North Carolina sportsbook promo codes.