Local connections still alive in NCAA Tournament

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WILMINGTON, NC (WWAY) — The NCAA Tournament has been one for the ages. We have seen history made in every round thus far and it’s only going to get better from here.

While the UNCW Seahawks weren’t in the mix this year and only one North Carolina school remains in the fray, we still have some connections to the Sweet 16 here in Southeastern North Carolina.

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As the list of teams still alive gets smaller, so does the connections to our area.

Most notably is Brad Brownell who has his fifth ranked Clemson Tigers in the Sweet 16. He coached at UNCW for 12 years, 8 as an assistant and 4 as the head coach of the Seahawks.

During his time as the head man in the Port City, he amassed an 83-40 overall record including two CAA titles and births in the Big Dance in 2003 and 2006.

In the South, Kentucky is back in the Sweet 16 under Coach John Calipari, who also has UNCW roots.

The Hall of Fame coach spent a pair of seasons with UNCW from 1978 to 1980 before transferring to Clarion where he would graduate.

Also on the Wildcats staff, Joel Justus played his college basketball for UNCW as well. He was a main piece of the Seahawks roster in the early 2000s. Justus helped UNCW to a pair of CAA titles and three postseason appearances. One in the NIT and two in the NCAA Tournament.

UNCW also has a connection to the Cinderellas of this year’s tournament. UMBC assistant coach Nate Dixon graduated from UNCW in 1994.

Watch the Sweet 16 on WWAY CBS featuring Coach Brownell and Coach Calipari this Thursday and Friday.