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Adam Gold

State's test is more mental than physical

Posted January 11, 2013
Updated January 12, 2013

High Noon.

Heck of a film from the early 1950's, if for no other reason than the presence of a young Grace Kelly. Gary Cooper plays a former town Marshall who decides to ditch it all to marry Kelly, a pacifist. Only problem, a criminal he brought to justice got away from the hangman's noose due to a legal technicality and he's coming back to town to exact his revenge. Cooper now has a choice; leave town with his bride -- knowing that he'll always live in fear of being hunted down -- or stay and fight.

Saturday at PNC Arena, at high noon, North Carolina State has a chance to make their own statement when the top-ranked and unbeaten Duke Blue Devils come calling. Ultimately, there's not a lot of difference between these two teams. In terms of sheer talent, you'd have to give the edge to the Wolfpack -- especially when you consider the Devils' loss of Ryan Kelly to a foot injury. But, the way each club arrived at this date could not be more different. Duke, even without a healthy Seth Curry, rang up about as impressive a first two months of the season as you could possibly imagine.

The Blue Devils beat -- and at times dominated -- Louisville, Kentucky, Ohio State, VCU, Minnesota and Temple; every one an NCAA tournament team. And, they did so while breaking in a brand new point guard and a freshman wing who were both critical to Duke's long-term success. When you consider the opposition they've faced the fact that their team is 15-0 is a remarkable accomplishment.

Meanwhile, there's nothing to sneeze at with regards to NC State's 13-2 record. They haven't lost a game in nearly 6 weeks, they're one of the best -- maybe the best -- offensive teams in the country and every single player on their team knows exactly what they're supposed to do. There is no defining roles for this group. There aren't too many teams that start two seniors AND two juniors while also bringing a pair of spectacular freshman into the mix.

So why is it that the Wolfpack haven't played a single great game against a good team?

I'm not dismissing 13-2. And, I'm not downplaying them as a team. But point to the game, against a quality opponent, in which you saw a team that was ready to lay the wood. In every game of significance so far this year, NC State has left a lot to be desired. The Wolfpack have played two teams that I'm positive will be in the NCAA tournament and were squashed each time. Oklahoma State and Michigan each had their way with the Pack in a 10-day span in November.

Since, NC State has played decently in wins over Connecticut, Stanford and Georgia Tech, but to characterize it any other way would be disingenuous. They simply haven't been great at any time this year against good competition. What's scary, is that if they roll out their A-game, I don't think Duke can touch them -- in fact, if NC State put it all together, I'm not sure they're not the best team in nation. If you base anything on future professional potential, every single player in their top six could end up being drafted in June -- yes, this June.

However, beating Duke on Saturday is going to be far more the mental exercise than a physical test.

This is not to diminish the physical skills of the Blue Devils. Mason Plumlee is a legitimate favorite for national player of the year honors. Seth Curry is a terrific player and a great, clutch shooter and Quin Cook is establishing himself as an explosive, trustworthy floor general for Mike Krzyzewski. And, in spite of the fact that the red-hot Ryan Kelly will not be available, the Blue Devils are talented enough to win.

To me, the difference will be how the Wolfpack handle the moment. While this is far from the biggest game they'll play all year long, State has two battles to wage. Aside from the Devils, the Pack will be dealing with the weight of expectations. Maybe I'm wrong, but I view this as a game that NC State should win.

And, in a very real way, that's what makes it harder.

It's one thing to perform well as a capable and dangerous underdog. State enjoyed that role in the NCAA Tournament a year ago. It's easy to relax without the weight of those expectations. But, that's not the way it's going to be when the Devils and Pack hit the floor a few hours from now. In a way, I think the Wolfpack might have been better served with the first meeting at Cameron Indoor, where the pressure of protecting your home court in a battle between the two best teams in the conference sits on someone else's shoulders. It's a subtle difference, but, in my opinion, not without significance.

In order to be great as a team you need to have all of the physical pieces -- well, at least enough of them -- and there's no denying that NC State has enough in their talent arsenal. But, to truly achieve all you want, the psychological side needs to be along for the ride. Dealing with the big moments, rising to the occasion against the best, keeping composure when things aren't going well.

How will the Wolfpack handle the first few inevitable bad calls that will cause the twittersphere to melt?

That's the element that all championship teams have. The pressure of the moment is more on NC State than Duke at high noon. How the Pack handles the moment will tell us a lot about what's to come the rest of the season.

As in the movie, when the Devils arrive at High Noon, I think the guys in red and white are ready to take a stand. It's State's game to win. I think they will.

53 Comments

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  • clanofwolves Jan 14, 3:11 p.m.

    Nice job Gold, I especially like any article about Sports that can have an lead-in including Grace Kelly and Gary Cooper...nice!

  • Hokies94 Jan 12, 3:53 p.m.

    I am wondering why we can edit some postings on here, and not others? I think I'll send this one... View More

    — Posted by Hokies94

    Thanks Hokie for calling this out ... It NEEDS to be said, I tend to type long winded comments... View More

    — Posted by PanthersFan45

    Most of the normal articles we can do this. Then the writers like Gold, and others...we can't. It's frustrating.

  • Hokies94 Jan 12, 3:52 p.m.

    State played a physical game today. Rebounding and shooting.

  • mojridingrb Jan 12, 2:50 p.m.

    gold is a mental hack that is dumb as a horse of full of horseshyt

  • killerbear Jan 12, 2:38 p.m.

    Duke will have 2 or 3 players that up their game today. It will be close the forst half as it... View More

    — Posted by Banned4Life

    Nailed it didn't you?

  • StunGunn Jan 12, 2:28 p.m.

    Six first round picks on State's team? Adam - get real. I love State too, however, Leslie and... View More

    — Posted by unbiasedaccfan

    I think Purvis has a good chance of being a first round pick in this year's NBA draft, depending on how he finishes his season. He's got an NBA body, and I think he'll go as soon as he gets positive feedback.

  • Banned4Life Jan 12, 10:26 a.m.

    Duke will have 2 or 3 players that up their game today. It will be close the forst half as it usually is, maybe with State up by 3 to 5 at the half. But they will have expended so much emotional energy by the end of the half that they'll come out flat to start the 2nd. Duke will pick up their game then just as they always do, will take a lead and the frustration will eat at the Pack until they are so far down the only excitement will be by how many Duke wins this one going away. (Duke has played in 5 of these types of games thus far this season, State hasn't been in one yet.....)

  • The Oracle Jan 12, 10:00 a.m.

    "...Six first round picks on State's team? Adam - get real."

    No where in the article did Adam make that statement.

  • Tunaboy Jan 12, 9:09 a.m.

    well it's finally time for the wuffies to put up or shut up ... which means it's time for the same old excuses we've heard for 30 yrs

  • unbiasedaccfan Jan 12, 7:49 a.m.

    Six first round picks on State's team? Adam - get real. I love State too, however, Leslie and Brown are the only two with a possibility of being a first round pick. Purvis? Wood? Howell? Warren? No.

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Scoreboard
Local
Final
UNC 82
OSU 74
Final
MVSU 60
NCCU 94
 
2nd
UNCW 59
ECU 49
 
2nd Intermission
CAR 1
NYR 0
 
4th
CHA 86
UTA 74
 
9:30pm Tonight
WVU
NCSU
Final
NYK 90
PHO 99
4th
NOP 70
POR 94
 
4th
CHA 86
UTA 74
 
2nd
HOU 31
ATL 43
 
1st
DAL 13
SAN 13
 
9:00pm Tonight
DEN
IND
10:30pm Tonight
LAC
MIL
Final
LALAF 16
NEV 3
Final
UTEP 6
UTST 21
Final
COLST 10
UTAH 45
4th
AFA 31
WMICH 17
 
9:15pm Tonight
BGU
SALABAMA
Final
GEOR 81
CHAR 78
Final
WKENT 67
LOU 76
Final
MICH 51
SMU 62
Final
CIN 47
VCU 68
Final
BSU 77
ABCHRIST 33
 
Final
PROV 85
UMASS 65
Final
AMER 46
MNTER 45
 
Final
UNC 82
OSU 74
Final
IUPUI 71
SALA 65
 
Final
VILL 82
SYR 77
Final
VT 64
CITA 61
Final
DUQ 79
MLOWELL 63
 
Final
FAIR 61
BEL 73
 
Final
YALE 60
GTDNS 64
 
Final
FD 76
DEL 74
 
Final
PSU 73
DREX 68
Final
UNCG 64
ELON 71
 
Final
ILL 62
MIZZ 59
Final
CAMP 90
MONT 64
 
Final
LONG 106
PSUBEAVER 74
 
Final
HOU 63
SCST 71
 
Final
FSU 75
SFLA 62
Final
BING 51
BONA 69
 
Final
RUTG 68
RFLSH 73
 
Final
MCNST 69
TOL 83
 
Final
JVU 84
TRUETT 55
 
Final
GT 65
VANDY 60
Final
INDST 56
EILL 60
 
Final
BUT 73
IND 82
Final
STEPH 94
ARTCH 57
 
Final
OREG 83
DELST 70
 
Final
Terriers 61
FATL 56
 
Final
TXARL 89
HPYN 50
 
Final
KU 96
LAF 69
Final
ARKST 67
MARS 58
Final
MEM 78
ORU 63
Final
KNST 53
UMBC 66
 
Final
NW 67
WMICH 61
Final
MIZST 65
EMICH 77
 
Final
CHIST 77
STJOE 54
 
Final
KENT 83
UCLA 44
Final
COC 68
DAVID 80
Final
RIU 69
DET 55
Final
UCR 78
HOUB 67
 
Final
MURST 89
ILLST 77
 
Final
NWST 89
LALAF 85
 
Final
WAGN 66
MON 74
 
Final
MVSU 60
NCCU 94
 
Final
PITT 81
OU 77
Final
TENNM 77
PBY 60
 
Final
WYO 57
SOUTH 39
 
Final
AFA 75
UCD 81
Final
MSST 51
USCU 53
 
Final
JMU 71
HIGH 80
 
Final
TXST 90
HTILL 56
 
Final
DRAK 54
ISU 83
Final
SHU 73
UNH 60
 
Final
SCU 72
NE 78
 
Final
MSU 64
TXSOU 71
Final
UF 63
WAKE 50
Final
ND 94
PURD 63
Final
SHSU 61
PVU 44
 
Final
AUB 89
XAV 88
 
2nd
AKR 92
BLUFFTON 53
 
2nd
DAY 64
BU 55
 
2nd
UNCW 59
ECU 49
 
2nd
CLMB 75
HOF 71
 
2nd
GMAS 70
IONA 62
 
2nd
TOWS 43
LAS 58
 
2nd
MAN 70
MRGST 68
 
2nd
CCST 74
YALE 83
 
2nd
PEPP 54
RICH 60
 
Final
MAR 58
STJOE 75
 
2nd
KYST 61
TEXAM 52
 
Final
MAST 72
VALPO 75
 
2nd
UMKC 63
INCWORD 62
 
2nd
IDST 45
CALST 48
 
2nd
NIOWA 36
IOWA 32
 
2nd
SIUE 31
UWMIL 35
 
1st
TEX 37
LBSU 29
 
Half
TCU 43
TXSA 26
 
1st
ARK 18
SEMIZ 10
 
9:00pm Tonight
NCOL
JVST
 
9:00pm Tonight
ARST
LEH
 
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UTST
SDKST
 
11:00pm Tonight
BYU
STAN
11:30pm Tonight
UNLV
UTAH
Final
LOS 4
ARI 2
2nd Intermission
CLB 1
CHI 1
 
2nd Intermission
BUF 0
COL 2
 
2nd
PIT 2
FLA 1
 
2nd Intermission
CAR 1
NYR 0
 
2nd Intermission
MON 2
OTT 1
 
2nd Intermission
TOR 3
PHI 5
 
2nd Intermission
NYI 0
TAM 0
 
2nd Intermission
NJD 0
WAS 2
 
1st Intermission
MIN 2
NAS 3
 
10:00pm Tonight
VAN
CAL
10:30pm Tonight
SJS
STL
Final
WAS 27
PHI 24
1st
SFX 7
SDC 0