I know this is only the second game of the conference schedule for the Wolfpack and the first contest in the RBC Center, but Saturday’s game against the Cavaliers is a must-win. I hate to put that sort of pressure on the second ACC game, but it’s the truth. For the Wolfpack to have any shot at postseason play, whether it be in the NCAAT, NIT or elsewhere, it is going to have to win the games at home that it should. Saturday’s game meets those qualifications, probably as much or more than any other home conference game the entire year.
Virginia comes to town sporting a new coach and an improved lineup over last season, IMO.
Sylven Landesberg, who is averaging more than 16 points per game so far, is the clear leader on offense for Virginia. In the only matchup between the two teams last season Landesberg made his presence known, scoring 16 points, grabbing eight boards and dishing out six assists. The Wolfpack will need to keep Landesberg out of the lane where he can create shots for both himself and his teammates, most notably big man Mike Scott. The 6’8″ junior is averaging nearly 14 points a game and is shooting nearly 60% from the field. For a more comprehensive look at Virginia from a statistical outlook, check out Backing the Pack.
Now, about this whole must-win thing. The reason this game is so important is not necessarily because of wins and losses or what kind of a whole a loss would put NC State in the ACC standings. It’s important from a confidence standpoint. There has been a lot of back and forth on the forums lately about relative measures of improvement. Confidence is certainly one of those. I realize that for some all that matters is wins and losses. If NC State isn’t competing for the ACC year in year out, it doesn’t matter how confident the team is or how hard it plays. I tend to fall on the other side of the argument.
A win against the Hoos Saturday, especially if it’s done in convincing fashion (a win of more than 10 points), would be a big boost heading into a brutal stretch of games during the next three weeks. Before State’s meeting with Bull City rival NCCU Jan. 31, the Wolfpack will face four ranked teams and Maryland on the road, which is never pleasant.
Another thing to watch Saturday will be the play of Javi Gonzalez. He didn’t have his best night against Holy Cross and it showed by the amount of minutes Julius Mays and Farnold Degand got. Being the Julius Mays hater that I am (when he’s playing PG), I hope Javi can get squared away and continue the solid play he’s shown through much of the season. If Mays can keep shooting well and play some at the two and Farnold and Javi keep pushing the tempo and limiting turnovers, the backcourt could go from one of those things you watch between the cracks in your fingers to something actually worthy of a round of applause.
I’ll be in attendance tomorrow during the game and be updating via Twitter and potentially the forums, depending on how good the 3G reception is in the RBC Center. Also, if you haven’t checked out the SFN FanPage on Facebook, you should probably go ahead and do that.
For those interested, the following is an extended interview with Coach Lowe that includes a focus on today’s game: