NC State’s strong play and run to the ACC semi-finals has people asking if this team can exceed the run achieved by Sidney Lowe’s first Woflpack team in 2007. (Link)
Can this N.C. State team go a step further than its 2007 edition and actually win four ACC tournament games and a berth in the NCAA tournament?
My answer that question is a resounding, YES! for one primary reason – depth.
Coach Sidney Lowe has developed his bench and these players to the point where any scholarship player has the experience and the talent to contribute in a pinch. Heck, even seldom used Johnny Thomas has ‘replaced’ Josh Davis as the hustle/hard work guy and Jordan Vandenburg has taken playing time from recently emerging Deshawn Painter. Richard Howell’s emergence means that another offensive option exists on the ‘second team’.
The 2007 team barely went five players deep and was clearly lead by a heroic effort from Brandon Costner. This team doesn’t have such a heavy reliance on a single player or such a limited set of half court offensive options. This team has already benefited from very strong play in two different games from a host of contributors making this run much more balanced.
With all of this said, I think that the ‘hidden’ differentiating factor in the Wolfpack’s recent play from our regular season struggles is the play of Farnold Degand. Degand has exerted energy on both sides of the floor and his ball handling and speed has been key in quite a few plays that were breaking down and needed saving. The “Degand Difference” is very real. Don’t forget his very first game this year when the Wolfpack had a second half offensive explosion to win on the road at NCAA Tournament team, Marquette.
The biggest key to the rest of the Wolfpack’s weekend is clearly Javi Gonzalez’s ankle. State does NOT have the depth – or consistency -to weather this kind of loss in the backcourt and Gonzalez’s strong play on both sides of the court since the Pack’s win over Wake Forest is clearly the key to our recent emergence.
The N&O gives your five things to watch as you look ahead today’s semi-finals in Greensboro.