These Eight North Carolina Teams
Are Hunting For Conference Titles

By David Glenn
North Carolina Sports Network
(Updated Feb. 19)

With about three weeks remaining in college basketball’s 2023-24 regular season, eight of North Carolina’s 19 Division One men’s basketball teams remain firmly in the hunt for first place in their respective conferences.

Here are those eight in-state teams, in order of their likelihood of claiming a regular-season championship (counting ties) according to the odds posted at, with some background information and key details on each.

1. Appalachian State, Sun Belt Conference (SBC)

First-Place Odds (including possible tie): 89 PERCENT
Head Coach: Dustin Kerns, 44 years old, fifth season
Top Players: junior F Tre’Von Spillers, fifth-year G/F Donovan Gregory, sophomore F Justin Abson
All-Time Conference Titles: 3 (1979 and 2000 in SoCon; 2021 in SBC)
All-Time 1st-Place Finishes: 10 (1978, 1979, 1981, 1998, 1999, 2000, 2003, 2007, 2008, 2010)
2022-23 Record: 16-16, 9-9 (7th in 14-team SBC)
2023-24 Preseason Prediction (Coaches): 2nd in 14-team SBC
2023-24 Record (Through Feb. 19): 22-5, 12-2 SBC
Other Top SBC Contenders: James Madison (11-3, 35%); Troy (11-3, 9%)
App State’s Remaining Schedule: at ODU (2/22), at Marshall (2/24), ODU (2/28), Arkansas State (3/1)

Three years ago, Dustin Kerns joined Bobby Cremins and Buzz Peterson as just the third coach ever to lead the Mountaineers to the NCAA Tournament. Now Kerns has App State playing some of the best defense in the nation — the team’s 38.9 percent field goal defense ranks sixth among 362 teams — and alone atop the conference standings. Junior forward Tre’Von Spillers, a first-team junior college All-American last season, has quickly emerged as one of the top players in the Sun Belt. With their most dangerous remaining regular-season opponent (Arkansas State) visiting Boone and two games left against last-place ODU, the Mountaineers are extremely well-positioned for their first regular-season title since 2010.

2. High Point, Big South Conference (Big South)

First-Place Odds (including possible tie): 77 PERCENT
Head Coach: Alan Huss, 45 years old, 1st season
Top Players: sophomore F Kimani Hamilton, junior G Duke Miles, junior G Kezza Giffa
All-Time Conference Titles: 0
All-Time 1st-Place Finishes: 4 (2013, 2014, 2015, 2016)
2022-23 Record: 14-17, 6-12 (8th in 10-team Big South)
2023-24 Preseason Prediction (Coaches/Media): 7th in 9-team Big South
2023-24 Record (Through Feb. 19): 22-6, 11-2 Big South
Other Top Big South Contenders: UNC Asheville (11-2, 56%)
High Point’s Remaining Schedule: at Charleston Southern (2/24), Winthrop (2/28), at Longwood (3/2)

High Point coach Alan Huss, a highly successful high school coach now in his first college head coaching position, is the only man on this list who is brand-new to his current program. A 10-year college assistant, most recently under Greg McDermott at Creighton (2017-23), where he was the starting center (he’s 6-foot-9) more than two decades ago, Huss has quickly turned around a program that spent most of the past four seasons in the Big South’s bottom tier. Led by former Troy guard Duke Miles and former Mississippi State forward Kimani Hamilton (who weren’t even full-time starters at their previous schools), plus star juco signee Kezza Giffa, the Panthers now have their sights set on both a first-place league finish and the first NCAA Tournament invitation in program history.

3. North Carolina, Atlantic Coast Conference (ACC)

First-Place Odds (including possible tie): 72 PERCENT
Head Coach: Hubert Davis, 53 years old, third season
Top Players: senior G RJ Davis, fifth-year C Armando Bacot, junior F Harrison Ingram
All-Time Conference Titles: 26 (1922, 1924, 1925, 1926, 1935, 1936, 1940, 1945 in SoCon; 1957, 1967, 1968, 1969, 1972, 1975, 1977, 1979, 1981, 1982, 1989, 1991, 1994, 1997, 1998, 2007, 2008, 2016 in ACC)
All-Time 1st-Place Finishes: 39 (1923, 1925, 1935, 1938, 1941, 1944, 1946 in SoCon; 1956, 1957, 1959, 1960, 1961, 1967, 1968, 1969, 1971, 1972, 1976, 1977, 1978, 1979, 1982, 1983, 1984, 1985, 1987, 1988, 1993, 1995, 2001, 2005, 2007, 2008, 2009, 2011, 2012, 2016, 2017, 2019 in ACC)
2022-23 Record: 20-13, 11-9 (7th in 15-team ACC)
2023-24 Preseason Prediction (Coaches/Media): 3rd in 15-team ACC
2023-24 Record (Through Feb. 19): 20-6, 12-3 ACC
Other Top ACC Contenders: Duke (11-3, 48%); Virginia (11-4, 10%)
UNC’s Remaining Schedule: at Virginia (2/24), Miami (2/26), NC State (3/2), Notre Dame (3/5), at Duke (3/9)

UNC’s Hubert Davis has one of the most unusual resumes of any third-year coach in NCAA basketball history. In his first season, he led the Tar Heels from midseason mediocrity and NCAA Tournament bubble status all the way to the national championship game. In his second season, Carolina became the only team in the modern era (since 1980) to enter a campaign with a preseason #1 ranking and then miss the Big Dance entirely. Here in Year Three, Davis may have the Heels poised for their first ACC regular-season title since they won a whopping nine in a 15-year period (2005-19) under legendary coach Roy Williams, although Carolina has lost three of its last six games and still has challenging trips to Virginia and Duke ahead.

4. UNC Asheville, Big South Conference (Big South)

First-Place Odds (including possible tie): 56 PERCENT
Head Coach: Mike Morrell, 41 years old, 6th season
Top Players: fifth-year F Drew Pember, senior G Josh Banks, senior F Nick McMullen
All-Time Conference Titles: 6 (1989, 2003, 2011, 2012, 2016, 2023)
All-Time 1st-Place Finishes: 8 (1997, 1998, 2002, 2008, 2012, 2017, 2018, 2023)
2022-23 Record: 27-8, 16-2 (1st in 10-team Big South)
2023-24 Preseason Prediction (Coaches/Media): 1st in 9-team Big South
2023-24 Record (Through Feb. 19): 19-9, 11-2 Big South
Other Top Big South Contenders: High Point (11-2, 77%)
UNCA’s Remaining Schedule: at Longwood (2/21), Gardner-Webb (2/24), at Radford (3/2)

One of only two teams on this list that was predicted (in the preseason) to win its conference, the Bulldogs returned four starters from last year’s squad, which captured both the Big South regular-season and tournament titles, thus earning the league’s automatic bid to the NCAA Tournament. Sixth-year coach Mike Morrell truly has taken this program from the outhouse to the penthouse, i.e., from a dismal 4-27 campaign in his 2018-19 debut, through three consecutive mediocre seasons, then last year’s much-celebrated breakthrough. The Bulldogs now have one of the most experienced teams in the nation, with each of their top seven rotation players in their fourth or fifth year of college, led by fifth-year forward Drew Pember, the 2023 (and perhaps 2024) Big South Player of the Year.

5. UNC Wilmington, Coastal Athletic Association (CAA)

First-Place Odds (including possible tie): 52 PERCENT
Head Coach: Takayo Siddle, 37 years old, fourth season
Top Players: junior F Trazarien White, fifth-year G Shykeim Phillips, fifth-year G KJ Jenkins
All-Time Conference Titles: 6 (2000, 2002, 2003, 2006, 2016, 2017)
All-Time 1st-Place Finishes: 9 (1997, 1998, 2002, 2003, 2006, 2015, 2016, 2017, 2022)
2022-23 Record: 24-10, 12-6 (3rd in 13-team CAA)
2023-24 Preseason Prediction (Coaches): 2nd in 14-team CAA
2023-24 Record (Through Feb. 19): 19-7, 10-4 CAA
Other Top CAA Contenders: College of Charleston (10-3, 69%); Drexel (10-4, 22%)
UNCW’s Remaining Schedule: at William & Mary (2/22), at Campbell (2/26), Hofstra (2/29), Towson (3/2)

Fourth-year coach Takayo Siddle was an assistant to Kevin Keatts (now at NC State) when the Seahawks made back-to-back NCAA Tournament appearances in 2016 and 2017. Now, as a first-time head coach, Siddle has had UNCW at or near the top of the CAA standings for three years running, although he hasn’t yet taken them to the Big Dance. Junior forward Trazarien White (20 ppg, 7 rpg, 50% FG, 70% FT, 36% threes), a junior college transfer now in his third season with the Seahawks, is among the leading candidates for the CAA Player of the Year honor. UNCW, which already has swept long-time rival College of Charleston and is favored in each of its four remaining regular-season games, is aiming for its fifth first-place CAA finish in the last 10 years.

6. Duke, Atlantic Coast Conference (ACC)

First-Place Odds (including possible tie): 48 PERCENT
Head Coach: Jon Scheyer, 36 years old, 2nd season
Top Players: sophomore F Kyle Filipowski, senior G Jeremy Roach, freshman G Jared McCain
All-Time Conference Titles: 27 (1938, 1941, 1942, 1944, 1946 in SoCon; 1960, 1963, 1964, 1966, 1978, 1980, 1986, 1988, 1992, 1999, 2000, 2001, 2002, 2003, 2005, 2006, 2009, 2010, 2011, 2017, 2019, 2023 in ACC)
All-Time 1st-Place Finishes: 23 (SoCon: 1940, 1942, 1943 in SoCon; 1954, 1958, 1963, 1964, 1965, 1966, 1979, 1986, 1991, 1992, 1994, 1997, 1998, 1999, 2000, 2001, 2004, 2006, 2010, 2022 in ACC)
2022-23 Record: 27-9, 14-6 (3rd in 15-team ACC)
2023-24 Preseason Prediction (Coaches/Media): 1st in 15-team ACC
2023-24 Record (Through Feb. 19): 20-5, 11-3 ACC
Other Top ACC Contenders: UNC (12-3, 72%); Virginia (11-4, 10%)
Duke’s Remaining Schedule: at Miami (2/21), at Wake Forest (2/24), Louisville (2/28), Virginia (3/2), at NC State (3/4), UNC (3/9)

The Blue Devils were the ACC’s regular-season champion for the first time in 12 years back in 2022, during legendary coach Mike Krzyzewski’s final season, and they won the ACC Tournament in 2023, during Jon Scheyer’s first year in command. Still only 36 years old, Scheyer — who previously helped Duke to NCAA titles as a star player (2010) and as an assistant coach (2015) — thus far has proven to be up to the gargantuan task of succeeding Coach K, both on the court and the recruiting trail. This year’s Devils are led by ACC Player of the Year candidate Kyle Filipowski, who was Scheyer’s first commitment as a head coach, senior guard Jeremy Roach, and freshman guard Jared McCain, yet another elite recruit, who may win this year’s ACC Rookie of the Year honor.

7. Charlotte, American Athletic Conference (AAC)

First-Place Odds (including possible tie): 46 PERCENT
Head Coach: Aaron Fearne, 49 years old, 1st season
Top Players: junior F Igor Milicic, junior G Lu’Cye Patterson, sophomore G Nik Graves
All-Time Conference Titles: 5 (1977, 1988 in Sun Belt; 1992 in Metro; 1999, 2001 in Conference USA)
All-Time 1st-Place Finishes: 5 (1977, 1978, 1988 in Sun Belt; 1995 in Metro; 2004 in CUSA)
2022-23 Record: 22-14, 9-11 (5th in 11-team CUSA)
2023-24 Preseason Prediction (Coaches): 13th in 14-team AAC
2023-24 Record (Through Feb. 19): 17-8, 11-2 AAC
Other Top AAC Contenders: South Florida (12-1, 67%); SMU (10-3, 21%); Florida Atlantic (10-3, 9%)
Charlotte’s Remaining Schedule: at Memphis (2/21), at Tulsa (2/24), South Florida (3/2), Rice (3/6), at ECU (3/9)

Along with High Point and a few others nationally, Charlotte ranks among the most pleasant surprises in college basketball this season. The 49ers entered the 2023-24 campaign with an interim head coach, Aaron Fearne, after their previous leader, Ron Sanchez, left in June (an odd time for such a departure) to become the associate head coach at Virginia. Charlotte also was transitioning from Conference USA to a more challenging league, the American Athletic Conference, and was picked to finish 13th. Somehow, though, the 49ers have thrived despite those complications. Fearne recently earned the full-time nod (no more “interim” tag), the 49ers have won 11 of their last 12 games, and they’ll get another shot at league-leading South Florida at Halton Arena on March 2.

8. NC Central, Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference (MEAC)

First-Place Odds (including possible tie): 26 PERCENT
Head Coach: LeVelle Moton, 49 years old, 15th season
Top Players: senior G Fred Cleveland Jr., senior G Ja’Darius Harris, sophomore G Po’Boigh King
All-Time Conference Titles: 4 (2014, 2017, 2018, 2019)
All-Time 1st-Place Finishes: 4 (2014, 2015, 2017, 2020)
2022-23 Record: 18-12, 10-4 (2nd in 8-team MEAC)
2023-24 Preseason Prediction (Coaches): 3rd in 8-team MEAC
2023-24 Record (Through Feb. 18): 13-10, 5-3 MEAC
Other Top MEAC Contenders: Norfolk State (6-2, 75%); Howard (5-3, 29%)
NCCU’s Remaining Schedule: at Norfolk State (2/19), UMES (2/24), Delaware State (2/26), at Coppin State (3/2), at Morgan State (3/4), South Carolina State (3/7)

With the recent retirements of coaching legends such as Mike Krzyzewski (Duke), Roy Williams (UNC), Tubby Smith (High Point) and Bob McKillop (Davidson), 15th-year NC Central leader LeVelle Moton has become an elder statesman of sorts in North Carolina basketball circles, even at only 49 years old. A former star player for the Eagles and professionally who remains close with a number of NBA stars and high-profile entertainers, Moton has continued his winning ways, both on the court and in the Triangle, where he was raised and now gives back through a variety of community ventures. On Moton’s watch, the Eagles already have four NCAA Tournament trips, although this year’s MEAC titles (regular-season and tournament) may run through Norfolk State.

NOTE: Conference regular-season title (first-place finish) odds from