NC State struggling to stay in the middle of the pack
Posted March 1, 2014
Raleigh, N.C. — Ninth or better. That’s all North Carolina State has to do in the 15-team ACC to avoid playing on Wednesday in the conference tournament. After Saturday’s far-from stellar performance, the Wolfpack find themselves ninth with Miami knocking on the door for that first round tournament bye.
At 17-12 on the year, it is all but assumed that the Wolfpack will have to win the ACC tournament to get the automatic bid into the Big Dance or else they will be looking at some other three-letter bracketed event. That being the case, NC State would much rather play four games in Greensboro than be tasked with winning five.
“That’s always been the goal is to win it all,” guard Desmond Lee said after losing to Miami Saturday at PNC Arena, 85-70. That goal is now a do-or-die when it comes to the NCAA Tournament.
Miami may have played their single best game of the year Saturday, but they were helped along by some very suspect Pack defense. The Hurricanes shot a blistering 58 percent from the floor and put five players in double figures while their 85 points were a season high. But NC State gave up 36 points in the paint and 16 second chance points on 11 offensive rebounds.
“We were a second slow and couldn’t guard them,” NC State head coach Mark Gottfried said. “It was really a disappointing defensive effort on our part.”
A win on Saturday and NC State would be competing with Clemson for the No. 6 spot in the league at 8-8 in conference play. With the loss, they are now 7-9 and just one game up on Miami.
What NC State has going for them, is tie-breakers over Florida State and Maryland – each of whom are 7-8 in the conference and play games on Sunday. Losses by one or each of the Seminoles or Terps will immediately elevate the Pack in the standings, but the fact remains that a team never wants to rely on somebody else to determine their own fate. They also want to avoid the possibility of a four-way tie with one team becoming the odd-team out.
Maryland is at Clemson Sunday while Florida State hosts Georgia Tech.
Looking ahead, NC State closes the regular season at Pittsburgh on Monday followed by a home game against Boston College. The first of the two is obviously a tough task, but the Pack should not sleep on BC either. Remember, the Eagles were winners at then- No. 1 Syracuse a little over a week ago.
Miami has two winnable games at Clemson Monday before hosting Wake Forest in the finale.
When a team has the league’s leading scorer, it is hard to believe having to battle so hard down the stretch just for conference positioning (apologies to Virginia Tech fans last year), but that is where NC State is right now – trying to stay in the middle of the pack.