Other than the snarled traffic on Edwards Mill Road, it was a very good night at the RBC Center. It’s been a very long time since a Wolfpack revenue sports team earned a standing ovation from the home crowd – but that particular drought ended tonight. Herb Sendek’s cool, composed squad disposed of a solid George Washington team in assassin-like fashion, 79-58.
Earlier this afternoon, I couldn’t shake the feeling that tonight could be a defining moment for Herb Sendek. Obviously, alot of hard work lies ahead – but the Colonials loomed as a litmus test of sorts. It was exactly the kind of game – all together now – that Sendek teams of the past would lose. But tonight, the outcome was never in doubt. Considering the sloppy state of affairs among other ACC programs (tonight alone, Virginia Tech lost to Old Dominion, and Clemson fell to an Elon squad that entered the game at 2-9), the opportunity is fantastic. It will be interesting to see if programs more familiar with NC State can solve the Wolfpack’s defense better than the out of conference teams did – if not, you could very well be looking at a 12+ ACC win team.
As Jeff noted in the pre-season, it would be very interesting to see how Herb Sendek fared without (1) Julius Hodge; and (2) Larry Hunter. So far, so good on both counts. Hodge’s former teammates have all stepped up their games and assumed part of the load that Hodge so often carried by himself. And without his security blanket of sorts, Herb Sendek has coached with more aggression and confidence. Case in point – we all (fairly, in my view) have pointed out Sendek’s poor history of halftime adjustments. But tonight, Sendek caught GW totally off guard by staring the second half abandoning the perimeter to feed Big Ced – again, again, and again. It was a brilliant move, and it paid off handsomely.
Again, I don’t want to get ahead of myself – basketball is a tournament sport, and it is possible that this team will crash and burn at the end, much like the 2004 team. But subjectively, I don’t see it. This team plays with more poise, composure, and mental toughness than any other Sendek squad. Those traits are directly attributable, IMHO, to good coaching.
Don’t read this as a mea culpa or an apology. I don’t think my past criticism of Sendek was ever unfair, and I stand by it. And despite what some people say, it’s not about liking someone – it’s about winning, and demonstrating a championship mentality. After Philip Rivers left NC State, Chuck Amato has shown us next to nothing. In the brief time since Julius Hodge departed, Herb Sendek has shown us a glimpse of something potentially very special. Let’s all hope the 2006 portion of the mens’ basketball season is as good as the 2005 part.