Let’s kick off the week with some basketball.
Crunch =====> I have been accused by some of my friends of being too ‘soft’ on the current basketball situation and being more optimistic than the average fan. But, I am feeling more and more vindicated every time the Wolfpack steps on the floor. There is no doubt that a lot of fans are starting feel a renewed sense of optimism in basketball. It’s hard to believe there are only 4 remaining regular season games for NC State Basketball, especially since mid-January saw many hoping for a quick end to the season since their attention was Russell Wilson’s injury more than Sidney Lowe’s team.
Crunch =====> Hindsight can be a wonderful tool — looking back at the past 12 ACC games, if you are honest with yourself, this team has not lost any surprising games. Two come close – the blown lead against Florida State and the blown lead at Virginia Tech. Now, go check the ACC standings you’ll see Florida State sitting in second place with a surprising RPI of 16. The loss at Va Tech, will forever sting.
Crunch =====> This hindsight supports a point that I made to a friend shortly after the Florida State loss when I recognized that the Seminoles were putting together a better season than I was expecting — NC State hasn’t lost to a single team that will not be in the NCAA Tournament. (VPI is obviously the big ‘bubble’ team at the moment; by the same token, the Wolfpack didn’t lose that game as much as had it taken from them under ridiculous circumstances.) Additionally, State has defeated a Top 5 (at the time) Wake Forest and a Miami team that sits on the bubble.
Crunch =====> The Wolfpack dominated the Hokies for 30+ minutes before hell broke loose. A win there, NC State would be 6-6 in the ACC, ahead of VT in the standings, with a great chance to finish .500 or better. Can still do that, but it will be tough. Losses @Clemson, @UNC, @Duke and UNC – those are better teams and all NCAA locks. The loss against FSU doesnt look so bad now. The loss @ BC, on the road is somewhat understandable, especially since they have one of the leagues best players in Rice.
Crunch =====> Speaking of ‘dominating…can anyone tell me the last time that an NC State Basketball team had the offensive efficiency and the ability to take twenty point leads in multiple ACC games? The Wolfpack have led by at least 18 points in three of our last four games – against Wake Forest (Top 5, NCAA team), Virginia Tech (NCAA bubble) and Virginia. Forget the comebacks that followed for a moment; when have we been good enough to even be able to get that far ahead of multiple ACC opponents?
Crunch =====> Looking at the next 4 games to close out the season: at Wake will be tough. Wake is a talented, but young team. Likewise, they tend to struggle on the road and play well at home – wins against Duke and UNC in the The Joe). This is the toughest of the 4 games remaining. Maryland and BC at home are two winnable, but very tough games. Both teams feature a point guard that can go-off and dominate a game (MD’s Vasquez and BC’s Rice). Control the PG position against MD and BC, and NC State will come out with wins. @Miami to close to season will probably be a standings game, meaning identical or close records with the winner getting the higher seed in the ACCT. Miami’s arena has never been intimidating, but Miami’s Jack McClinton doesn’t seem to care. Additionally, dead environments don’t necessarily work well for traveling teams. Let’s hope that game is for .500 or better for NC State.
Crunch =====> Speaking of Vasquez, his performance Saturday was one for the ages – a triple double with 35 points. He is the main reason Maryland is now squarely on the NCAA bubble. Maryland does not have a talented team across the board, but they do have a talented PG. Looking at all the ACC teams, those with very good point guards are in position to make the NCAAT. Those without, are struggling or on the outside looking in when it comes to the NCAAT. The 2 exceptions are Duke and Clemson – both have servicable PGs, but not stars at the position. GT, UVA, NC State, VT and Miami all have major questions at PG – and those are the 5 teams on the outside as we head into the home stretch.
Crunch =====> Kudos to Florida State and Leonard Hamilton. This is Hamilton’s 7th season, and he finally will lead the Seminoles into the NCAA Tournament. FSU has not been to the big dance since 1998 and Hamilton’s seat was getting really warm in Tallahassee. Having an All-ACC performer at the point guard position in Tony Douglas has given the Seminoles the leadership needed to win close games against tough opponents – something FSU lacked in previous seasons under Hamilton. Would Hamilton have been given an 8th season to make the NCAAT? Probably not, but that’s all a moot point now.
Crunch =====> Take a step back for a minute. It would be an amazing feat for NC State to finish anywhere near .500 in the toughest basketball conference (by a mile) in the country during Coach Lowe’s third season and after what happened last year. Don’t forget — NC State plays the TOUGHEST schedule in the ACC. So, reaching .500 for us is a helluva a lot different as it is for everyone else.
Crunch =====> The NC State baseball team had a tough beginning to its season, losing 2 of 3 in the round-robin tournament played at Doak Field over the weekend. Now, baseball is different than football and basketball in that even good teams lose many games. However, giving up 11 and 8 runs to Atlantic 10 opponents Rhode Island and Xavier is cause for concern for a NC State pitching staff that lost its complete starting rotation from last year. Plenty of time to recover from the 1-2 start, but you have to consider this a red-flag on what the season might hold going forward.
Crunch =====> For folks that keep their eye on the numbers, the following are the latest RPI’s for the ACC from Collegerpi.com. Now that Quinten Jackson is no longer around to lazily construct the basketball schedule, perhaps we can be more strategic in the future and try to target OOC games against opponents in the #150-#250 range as opposed to a menu of games against teams sub-300.
55. Boston College
90. NC State