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March 4, 2012
JP GIGLIO (N&O)
N.C. State’s postseason hopes are on the brink
The phrases “last four in” and the “first four out” were not part of C.J. Williams’ lexicon until about a month ago.
With N.C. State’s tenuous postseason prospects squarely on the NCAA tournament bubble, the Wolfpack’s senior guard has been a quick learner.
“People are talking about us, and that’s better than the alternative,” Williams said. “But we’d rather just finish strong and let the committee worry about the bubble.”
Expansion changed the equation in the ACC. Since the league expanded before the 2004-05 season, 30 of the 35 teams team that finished the regular season with a winning conference record, made the tournament.
Since expansion, ACC teams with a 9-7 conference record have basically had a 50-50 chance of making the NCAA field. Since the 2004-05 season, nine teams have finished at 9-7 in conference play, only five made the tournament.
JP GIGLIO (N&O)
Preview: N.C. State at Virginia Tech
Observations: The Hokies have lost nine ACC games by five points or less, including the past three. “They’re a whole lot better than their record shows,” N.C. State coach Mark Gottfried said. … Since winning six straight from 2005 to ’08, N.C. State has lost four straight to the Hokies, including its last two trips to Blacksburg, Va.
Brett Friedlander (starnewsonline.com)
Five questions to ponder before tipoff
5. Can N.C. State play with the same kind of urgency at Virginia Tech on Sunday as it did against Miami on Wednesday?
Regardless of whether itâ€™s still in the running for the No. 4 ACC tournament seed or not by the time it plays Sunday evening, the Wolfpack still has a lot at stake against the Hokies. A would will keep coach Mark Gottfriedâ€™s team on the NCAA tournament bubble and send it into the postseason with some momentum and confidence. The key for State is whether it can play with the effort and energy it showed during the second half of Wednesdayâ€™s must-win against Miami. Point guard Lorenzo Brown and forward C.J. Leslie set the tone early in that game and it carried over to the rest of their teammates. Even slumping sharpshooter Scott Wood regained his touch by making five 3-pointers â€“ one more than he had in his four previous games combined. Now the trick is finding a way to sustain that energy without the benefit of a home crowd off which to feed.
Akula Wolf (BackingThePack.com)
Previewing The Virginia Tech Hokies
If you think NC State has had some hard luck this season, hold on a second and let flabbergasted Seth Greenberg state his case: the Hokies have lost eight conference games by five points or fewer. And none of their four league wins have come by more than two points, so basically it’s a miracle that nobody on the coaching staff has died yet.
Virginia Tech doesn’t deserved to be lumped in with the bottom three in the ACC, though that’s where this team is in terms of wins and losses. The Hokies have been much more competitive than the results suggest, and it’s probably a good idea to expect another solid effort from them on Sunday.
In conference play, the Hokies offense is struggling because their two-point accuracy is dead last and they aren’t grabbing a lot of those misses. They are taking decent care of the ball, however, and this is the league’s best three-point shooting team. We all know what that could mean for this game.
Bret Strelow (FayObserver.com)
Layup Lines: An all-access look at Duke-North Carolina and the rest of the ACC finales
â€œJock Jams, Volume 1â€ will suffice for:
N.C. State at Virginia Tech
N.C. State could be seeded as high as fourth and as low as seventh in next week’s ACC tournament. The Wolfpack is currently in a four-way tie for fourth place with Virginia, Miami and Clemson.
Joe Lunardi ranks N.C. State fourth on his “First Four Out” list, and a victory against the Hokies is essential to keep slim NCAA tournament hopes alive. If C.J. Leslie keeps up his torrid pace and continues to make plays like this, the Wolfpack might just get there:
Keep an eye on:
Virginia at Maryland
This one is for N.C. State fans. If the Wolfpack can take care of business, the game earlier Sunday in College Park, Md., likely has the biggest impact on whether or not N.C. State receives a first-round bye. That’d require Maryland winning at home against Virginia (and Clemson losing at FSU, which seems more likely).
Clemson at Florida State, Noon (ESPN2)
Virginia at Maryland, 2 p.m. (ACC Network)
N.C. State at Virginia Tech, 6 p.m. (ESPNU)
The Wolfpack looks to close out the regular season on a high note when it travels to Blacksburg, Va., to face Virginia Tech in the regular-season finale for both teams. On the line for NC State is ACC Tournament seeding. The Pack can finish as high as fourth and as low as seventh with a combination of wins and losses by NC State, Clemson, Miami and Virginia, which are all tied with identical 8-7 conference marks.
In addition to finishing the season on the positive side at Virginia Tech, a Wolfpack win can snap a four-game slide against the Hokies. State’s last victory in the series came on Feb. 5, 2008, when it posted a 73-63 home win over Virginia Tech. A triumph on Sunday would give the Wolfpack its first 20-win regular season and its first winnning conference record since the 2005-06 season when it finished the year with 21 victories in the regular season and a 10-6 ACC record.
All-Access with State Basketball
Get an inside look at the State men’s basketball program and go behind the scenes with head basketball coach Mark Gottfried.
Jacey Zembal (TheWolfpacker.com)
Trip to Blacksburg could define season (AUDIO)
The politicking and analyzation of whether the NC State men’s basketball team is worthy of being picked to the NCAA Tournament will mean nothing if the Wolfpack don’t win at Virginia Tech on Sunday.
NC State coach Mark Gottfried reiterated that point countless times during his weekly press conference Friday. The Hokies are 4-10 in the ACC, but seven of the losses are by five points or less. Virginia Tech also suffered close non-conference losses to Brigham Young and Minnesota.
Gottfried was also full of praise for the recent play of sophomore power forward C.J. Leslie, but said any discussion about Leslie’s future will take place after the season is over. Leslie is a strong candidate to make one of the ACC’s postseason teams.
The Wolfpack are also still learning on how to put teams away. Gottfried sees room for improvement in how to stretch a five-to-seven-point lead to double figures.
Gottfried: “It’s A Big Week For Us”
“This becomes a topic if we win Sunday, but if you look at the nonconference strength of schedule, Virginia sits at 223, Clemson is 182, I think Miami is 110, and NC State is 23. The difference in what we chose to do in November and December can help you. Now, we’ve got to take care of our business Sunday or it’s a moot point.”
“Calvin has played at a high level, his last six games have been terrific. You need your best weapons to play at a high level, which he has done.”
“I think Lorenzo has been playing good… I thought earlier in the year he really had great confidence… I think he’s done a pretty good job of being the quarterback of our team. I have such a high level of expectation for him that it’s hard for me, I’m probably too hard on Lorenzo because I want him to be perfect at that position.”
The Sports Xchange (PackPride.com)
Previewing Virginia Tech
STRATEGY AND PERSONNEL
THIS WEEK’S GAMES:
–vs. N.C. State, March 4
KEY MATCHUPS: In their only meeting this season with the Wolfpack, the Hokies will have to display good attention to detail on the defensive end. If their rotations aren’t precise, N.C. State has the inside-outside mix to make for a long night in Cassell Coliseum. A winning season and potential postseason tournament bid could be on the line for Tech.
FUTURES MARKET: F Marshall Wood of Rustburg, Va., could offer help in a spot role next year, although he might need to add strength to a 6-foot-8, 200-pound frame. Wood averaged 24 points, 12.7 rebounds and 3.2 blocked shots during the regular season, scoring 49 points in one game and enjoying a 31-point, 12-rebound, 10-blocked shot triple double in another. He projects as a taller version of A.D. Vassallo, a Hokies wing from 2005-09.
– Senior C Victor Davila (groin) sat out his fifth straight game at Clemson and may have played his final game for the Hokies. Coach Seth Greenberg doesn’t think that Davila will be ready to play on March 4 against N.C. State. Davila’s absence continues to hurt this team inside, where his experience and defense aren’t easily replaced. Without Davila patrolling the lane, Clemson earned a 36-30 edge on the boards March 1, permitting just six offensive boards.
The Sports Xchange (PackPride.com)
Pack Must Keep Winning
STRATEGY AND PERSONNEL
THIS WEEK’S GAMES:
–at Virginia Tech, March 4
KEY MATCHUPS: The Wolfpack could take advantage in the lane with F C.J. Leslie’s athleticism depending on the health of Virginia Tech’s post players. There are potentially good matchups in the backcourt (N.C. State’s G Lorenzo Brown or G C.J Williams vs. Virginia Tech’s G Erick Green), but depth issues across the board will be important on both sides.
ON THE SPOT: Coach Mark Gottfried has largely been lauded for helping turn the Wolfpack around in his first season on the bench. But a February slide in the form of a four-game losing streak caused reason for concerns and it’s something he wants to correct because it’s bound to impact the team’s postseason destination. The Wolfpack would covet a return to the NCAA Tournament, but at the very least it wants to be in position for a bid to the NIT.
A chance at an above-.500 ACC record exists and how Gottfried steers this team during the last weekend of the regular season and through the ACC Tournament largely will determine how his first-year job performance is evaluated.
FUTURES MARKET: The Wolfpack’s goal of 11 ACC victories has gone by the wayside and now there’s simply the issue of finishing above .500 in ACC play. The Wolfpack is 7-7 with two games left and its hopes for an NCAA Tournament bid have dimmed considerable the past couple of weeks. Certainly these are times when leadership is vital and it would seem that senior G C.J. Williams would be the best candidate to provide that. He has had a breakthrough season and he can’t afford anything except a strong finishing kick in order to help put the Wolfpack back on track.
nc state: The pack-backers are trying to forget the last 5 years under Sidney Lowe, their ricky stokes. They won just 25 regular season ACC games in that time, never more than 6 in a season. Mark Gottfried has already led them to 2 more win they they ever had under Lowe (8), and can lock up their first winning season since they ran Sendek out of town.
state started out 7-3 in ACC play and led at duke by 20. But then the pack reverted back to their Lowe ways, blowing that lead, the game, and losing 4 in a row to drop to 7-7 in the ACC. But they swept miami, winning on Leap Day over the canes, and find themselves in a 4-way tie with uva, miami, and clemson. To get the #4 seed and a bye in the ACC Tourney, state would need to beat VT, and have uva and clemson lose. uva needs to win and not finish in a 2-way tie with clemson.
Things are looking up for state, though. They are bringing in perhaps the top recruiting class in the nation for next year. Gottfried does have a history of shadiness, though (where thereâ€™s smokeâ€¦???).
A.c.c. basketball preview: NC.State @ Virginia Tech:
N.B.A. pros= 1 (C.J. Leslie, a power-forward trapped in a small-forwards body)
The best player on this years Wolfpac hoops team you ask? Most likely his name is C.J. Leslie. He wears #5 and he is first in points at 14.2 ppg and second in rebounding at 7 rebounds per contest does not suck, and neither does leading the â€˜Pac in FTAâ€™s at 144 on the year and in blocks at 1.8 swats per game. The 61.8% FT shooting however could stand some work from the 6`8â€œ 209 lb. sophomore string-bean small-forward. So could his political correctness as his anti-Gay tweets clearly demonstrate. Be that right or â€˜rong, nothing short of conflict and controversy follows that in todayâ€™s highly sensitive now; and short on forgiving later â€œfascinating modern worldâ€. Ditto the fact that this member of the Wolpac has friends with benefits. $410 worth of benefits if you are keeping score at home and such costs C.J. a three game suspension this season. Nevertheless, $410 for a car and a months rent in todayâ€™s economic downturn is pretty savvy if you ask me, so +1 credit hour for C.J. in Macro Economics is hereby awarded. C.J. is one of the top recruits to ink with the Wolfpac in years, as he was the #4 ranked power-forward and McDonaldâ€™s all-American this time two seasons ago. That said, C.J. has indeed showcased improvement across the board this year as his shooting is up 7% from the floor, 8% from beyond the arc, and 7% from the FT-stripe. Not many Atlantic Coast kids can say that year-after-year and that does hint at a enthusiastic work ethos and we all know that the only place winning comes before working is the dictionary.
Tim Crothers (Charlotte Observer)
At 5-11 N.C. State recruit Tyler Lewis towers over his doubters
Love for Tar Heels
Ever since heâ€™d gone to his first basketball camp as a 4-year-old and fell hard for the game, Lewis was a true blue North Carolina fan. He learned how to play basketball by watching Tar Heel games on television. When Tyler and his older brother Colby played one-on-one in the driveway, Colby was Vince Carter and Tyler was Ed Cota. Tyler collected UNC jerseys, including Joseph Forte, Jason Capel, Julius Peppers, Raymond Felton and Rashad McCants.
As a kid, he begged his parents for tickets to one or two games every year at the Smith Center and among his most precious childhood possessions was the photo he once took with Ty Lawson.
â€œI just have had a love for the Tar Heels because my whole family are Carolina fans,â€ Lewis says. â€œShooting in my driveway I won the national championship for Carolina hundreds of times.â€
Current Tar Heels P.J. Hairston and Jackson Simmons were Lewisâ€™ AAU teammates for three seasons each. He has known Tar Heels point guard Kendall Marshall since the two met at basketball camp in the fifth grade. Lewis speaks to Marshall about twice a month on the phone and they exchange regular texts.
So naturally it stung Lewis when at the beginning of his sophomore year, Tar Heels coach Roy Williams informed him that he ranked third behind L.J. Rose and Marcus Paige on the Tar Heelsâ€™ wish list of point guards for the recruiting class of 2012.
Williams offered scholarships to Rose and Paige, but not to Lewis. Meanwhile at N.C. State, Lewis was the only point guard in his class to receive a scholarship offer from coach Sidney Lowe. The way Lewis saw it, he could add Williams to his long list of doubters.
Paige, who eventually overtook Rose to become the top-rated point guard in the class, later committed to UNC.
â€œThroughout the whole recruiting process, I had to put my feelings for Carolina aside,â€ Lewis says. â€œI had to go where I was needed and wanted. It was definitely hard picking another school thatâ€™s going to play Carolina, but thatâ€™s going to be my favorite game to play because they didnâ€™t give me a scholarship. I was their third option and now Iâ€™ve just got to show them they made a mistake.â€
As an N.C. State signee, Lewis has been reunited with Lutz, who was fired at Charlotte in 2010 and became an assistant coach with the Wolfpack when Mark Gottfried was hired last April.
Gottfried had never heard of Tyler Lewis when he accepted the N.C. State job. â€œWe need this Lewis kid,â€ Lutz told his new boss. â€œHe is better than people think. Heâ€™s small and everybodyâ€™s going to try to tell you he canâ€™t do this, canâ€™t do that, canâ€™t guard anybody, but what he can do is pretty special and they have to guard him, too.â€
Three days after taking the Wolfpack job, Gottfried told Lewis he would honor the schoolâ€™s scholarship offer despite never seeing him play. When Gottfried finally did watch Lewis in a game for the first time at an AAU tournament in July, he was relieved.
â€œWhen you first look at Tyler, he doesnâ€™t impress you with his physique, but the more you watch him, you fall in love with his toughness, his court awareness, his passing, his shooting,â€ Gottfried says. â€œSince then Iâ€™ve sat down for Tylerâ€™s games with people who have never watched him before and I can tell during warm-ups that theyâ€™re looking at me thinking, â€˜You signed that guy?â€™ Then by halftime heâ€™s won them over.â€