UNCG basketball

UNC-Greensboro’s Marvin Smith Jr. (left) hugs head coach Wes Miller as the Spartans celebrate their 72-66 victory over East Tennessee State at the Greensboro Coliseum.

No offense, intrepid voters of Guilford County, but when it comes to sports, y’all are nuts.

Best College/University Team: No. 1 Duke Blue Devils. No. 2 North Carolina Tarheels.

First of all, it’s “Tar Heels,” two words. But that’s not the point.

The point is this is “Guilford’s Best,” and that doesn’t mean hopping on the interstate for an hour of road rage or staying home to watch TV. Last time I checked, those fine teams don’t play home games within our borders unless circumstances dictate a rare game at the Greensboro Coliseum.

  • Psst. I’ll let you in on a secret: You don’t have to travel far to see good college teams play entertaining games, and it won’t cost a fortune, either

Just this past school year alone, we saw …

The best running back in North Carolina — bar none — carry the ball for a nationally ranked Football Championship Subdivision team at N.C. A&T. If you never saw Tarik Cohen play during his four years with the Aggies, then friend, you missed out.

Scouts and recruiters thought Cohen was too small to play big-time college football. A&T took a chance on him and landed a player blessed with speed and eye-popping elusiveness. The Chicago Bears saw enough to pick Cohen in the NFL draft.

The Aggies remain a strong team, and the A&T game experience is a whole lot of fun, whether you’re an alum or not. Go soak it in, and don’t skip the marching band’s halftime show. It alone is worth the price of admission.

Championship basketball at UNCG. The Spartans took their lumps early in young Wes Miller’s coaching career, but this year the rebuilding project turned into a Southern Conference winner.

The cruelty of the SoCon is that only the conference tournament winner advances to the NCAA tournament. And the regular-season champ Spartans lost a heart-breaker in the tournament finals.

But the SoCon is good mid-major basketball. And good mid-major basketball is good basketball. Just ask Duke fans about Mercer or Lehigh. Or Carolina fans about Weber State or George Mason.

Sent to Syracuse to wait around then play in a blizzard, UNCG lost in the NIT. But these Spartans got key contributions from underclassmen, and they could be fun to watch for years to come.

• Division III excellence. The city’s small colleges, Guilford and Greensboro, both showcased solid athletics programs.

The men’s and women’s basketball teams from both colleges all finished with winning records, and both of Guilford College’s teams qualified for the NCAA Division III tournament.

Guilford’s football program has been ranked in the Top 25 nationally, and both the Quakers and Pride golf teams were in contention for an NCAA national championship up to the last day of this year’s tournament (and both should be loaded next year, too).

There’s more, of course.

A&T track, women’s basketball and baseball are among the MEAC’s best. UNCG’s baseball team won the SoCon, and the women’s basketball team played in the postseason. High Point University’s athletics program is competitive in the Big South.

And it’s all right here.

Two other sports-related categories caught my eye.

Y’all voted Greensboro Country Club and Willow Creek as top two in the Best Golf Course category. Fine choices. I won’t dispute the quality of either course. But I wouldn’t know for certain since they’re both private.

I probably would’ve voted for a place where anyone can call up and make a tee time, a place like Bryan Park or Oak Hollow, both excellent and beautiful golf courses in an area rich in both.

And Ed Hardin won the vote as Best Writer. On second thought, maybe y’all aren’t completely nuts after all.

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Contact Jeff Mills at 336-373-7024, and follow @JeffMillsNR on Twitter.

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