Talking Points: Heels & Pack surging
Posted March 7, 2013
1. Last year North Carolina State University was desperately looking for wins to secure a spot in the NCAA Tournament, so playing on Thursday in the ACC Tournament ultimately played to their advantage. Now the Wolfpack is looking to avoid that opening round and position itself for the easiest run possible through Greensboro.
Unfortunately for NC State, it's up to Virginia at this point.
"We can all sit around and say 'if that happened and if that happened,'" said Mark Gottfried. "What we need to do is play our best basketball, and we need to go on the road to Tallahassee with that same mindset."
As added motivation, Gottfried ditched the usual coach-speak in favor of having his players engage in scoreboard watching. If the Wolfpack take care of their own business against Florida State and the Cavaliers split their final two games, the fourth seed goes to NC State.
2. The highlights of Senior Night for Richard Howell and Scott Wood didn't happen on the court. Howell's moments came during the introductions when he brought out his adorable daughter and after the game when he received high praise from Mark Gottfried. Meanwhile, Wood had his last opportunity to hold court with the media horde and drop a few quotables.
On the court, the seniors pushed through some struggles and inched closer to reaching specific milestones. Howell is a few shy of 1,000 rebounds and Wood needs nine more 3-pointers to catch Rodney Monroe's record.
Jay Lewis, the other senior, eventually came off the bench when the game was well out of reach for Wake Forest. Encouraged by the "we want Jay!" chants, Lewis got the biggest pop from the crowd after burying a 3-pointer in the closing minute.
3. Time to play everybody's favorite game -- "CJ or Calvin?"
Leslie overcame a sluggish start of his own to finish with 19 points on 8-of-15 shooting and 10 rebounds. Along with the double-double, he blocked four shots and dished out four assists (including a filthy alley-oop transition to Lorenzo Brown). Impressively, Leslie cut the turnovers out and kept silly mistakes like goaltending out his game.
Let's see what the judges think. Did we see CJ or Calvin in possibly his last game at PNC Arena?
The judges say, "Calvin."
4. After six straight wins since the loss at Duke, the North Carolina bandwagon is nearing capacity. The Tar Heels appear to be peaking at the right time with the much-discussed lineup, even if Roy Williams says he has no idea how to make a peak. All he's asking is for each Tar Heel to "bust your tail" everyday and the results will follow.
Those results now include removal from the NCAA Tournament bubble and a bye in the ACC Tournament. Beating Duke on Saturday in Chapel Hill will push North Carolina into a second place tie with the Blue Devils and give them the third seed in Greensboro.
5. In attempts to dissect North Carolina's streak, detractors are quick to point out the schedule has been rather kind.
Georgia Tech, Clemson, Florida State and Maryland won't be NCAA Tournament teams. Virginia, squarely on the bubble, can't seem to win away from Charlottesville. NC State would be considered their lone "good win" in the bunch.
But here's something to consider: The Tar Heels went to College Park and came away with a win. Duke and NC State didn't. Also consider so-called givens, like Miami hosting Georgia Tech last night, end up with disastrous results for the favored team.
Rather than focusing on the difficulty of the opponent, focus on how North Carolina is playing with the sense of urgency and poise required of teams looking to make deep runs in March.
6. Another big opponent, another impressive showing on the glass. North Carolina pulled down 33 rebounds, including 10 offensive boards, and essentially matched efficiency against one of the taller interiors in the ACC. Reggie Bullock and P.J. Hairston combined to grab 20 rebounds.
7. The All-ACC First Team appears solidified with Erick Green, Shane Larkin, Mason Plumlee and Joe Harris. It's that final spot that's up in the air.
Bullock has elevated himself from Second Team lock to being in same the mix with Richard Howell and Seth Curry for inclusion in the First Team. Whoever gets slotted on the top team will do so by the slightest of margins.