I’ve had multiple emails from people asking where the heck that I have been the last few days so I felt obligated to drop a quick line to celebrate the Pack’s return to the Sweet 16!
I closed on the purchase of a new home on Friday afternoon and am scheduled to close on the sale of my existing home on Thursday. That said, executing a full move in just 5 days that coincides with one of the biggest projects of my professional career does not bode well for free blogging time. So, after almost 16 years of wandering in the desert of obscurity, I can’t even find time (or an internet connection) to celebrate!!!
A few of quick hits while I am logged on:
Exposure & Excitement
WOW!! It is hard to fathom how much national exposure an appearance in the Sweet 16 can generate. As I was buying my Monday morning coffee, I glanced at the front page of the USA Today and saw Julius Hodge staring at me and the name “NC State” across the top. What a wonderful feeling…and what a great stage for our program!!
Of course, I can’t imagine how we have been able to win two games in the NCAA Tournament since we are hamstrung by playing in the shadows of Carolina and Duke!! (Just roll with the sarcasm, folks.)
It is such a nice feeling to log on to morning webruns and see so much media activity focused on NC State. And, to see people on the Message Boards talking about things like sending the team off and getting together to watch the games. Even my boss’ boss emailed me over the weekend to congratulate me and say that he was adopting NC State has his team now that his alma mater was out!
The Hodge Factor
You just can’t be happier for anyone than you are for Julius Hodge. Hodge has been the epitome of a TEAM player for 4 years and is experiencing a new level of national respect and attention. Some media outlets have proclaimed Julius has been the MVP of the first two rounds of the tournament.
With no Championships or marquee team achievements to his name, Hodge’s legacy desperately needed some kind of signature of success. This tournament run is providing that signature. Julius’ statistics already assured him of a lofty ranking amongst the best in NC State history; however, the further that this tournament run goes, the larger Hodge’s shadow will become in Wolfpack lore.
The 11 Point Curse
Talk about your de ja vu!!!
After NC State blew an 11 point lead to Vanderbilt in just over 2 minutes in last year’s NCAA Round of 32, it was absolutely painful that our largest lead on Sunday reached 11 points with five minutes remaining.
When Jordan Collins had his rebound stripped for an easy UConn bucket, I felt that my heart was stripped out of my chest. I must admit that I had no hope that we would find a way to win that game after we imploded at the end of the game. How can you blame me? We had lost 14 of our last 17 games decided by 3 points or less. Thank God for Julius Hodge. And, thank God that we didn’t make the mistake of calling a time out to set up a play under 10 seconds to go.
Playing to WIN
See…was that really so damn difficult? Is there anything so wrong with actually aiming to achieve TANGIBLE goals like the “Sweet 16″ instead of simply “being competitive” and “building relationships”?
After NC State’s victory over Wake Forest on Friday night in the ACC Tournament, Ned Barnett wrote an article in the News & Observer that covered a lot of ground. In the article, Barnett wrote something that still rings true today that I wanted to challenge:
“Now, assured a spot in the NCAA by winning a revenge match against Wake, the Pack could relax.
It’s not likely. Whatever is fueling this team seems to be coming from someplace deep, and there seems to be a lot of it.
It’s about more than settling a grudge with Wake and Chris Paul. It’s about pride. It’s about one of those obscure sayings Sendek uses, about not letting others or records or expectations define you.”
I agree with everything Barnett says until his concluding statement. It is wonderful that the Wolfpack is (finally) playing focused and with what seems to be a mission. State is definitely “playing with pride”. It is such a rare occurrence since Jim Valvano left that I’m not sure many younger Wolfpackers have any idea what it looks like.
But, I very much disagree with anyone that has the perspective that this mission is “not about letting others or records or expectations define you.”
No offense to anyone who is a loser in life or has the luxury of going through life without having to strive to succeed in competitive environments…but, RECORDS and WINNING are EXACTLY what this is about! Our boys are currently PLAYING TO WIN. And that is the difference in this team and the Buddha-infused, easily-collapsable Wolfpack of the last nine years.
It feels as though the people in this program (at least for the last couple of weeks) have finally realized that reason that we play the games IS TO WIN. Maybe we have finally realized that at the other 315 Division One Basketball programs in the country, RECORDS DO DEFINE a program. If that wasn’t the case, then we wouldn’t keep score.
Heck, you need to look no further than the actual RESULTS of the last couple of weeks to find the justification of this thinking. Look no further than Barnett’s article, in fact —
Had State played with the same “pride” against Wake on that Friday night in the ACC Tournament, but still have found a way to lose, would Barnett have ever written these words to begin with? Of course not. There would have been no article NOT because we didn’t play hard or because relationships weren’t fostered…but, because we would have lost.
Had NC State played with the exact same “pride” on Sunday but not had Julius Hodge pull us through, nobody in the country would be saying a nice word about the program. In the end, the score DOES define a lot more than just how other people perceive you.
If your true love is NC State, and your true hope is for NC State to be the absolute best in everything in which we endeavor to undertake — then what is more important to NC State University and its Basketball Program — the national attention that comes from WINNING and succeeding or that some individuals get to build lasting personal relationships that they value a lot?
Make no mistake about it — The defining factor in NC State’s Basketball over the last month is NOT “HOW” the team has played…but is that the team is WINNING. As ridiculously elementarty as that point is…it is actually one that needs to be stressed to a large faction within the NC State community.