The media acts surprised by this.
Never mind it was that same media — not State fans — that over-hyped this State team in the preseason and then just as quickly soured on us after we were blown out by Oklahoma State in Puerto Rico in mid-November and then over-matched on the road against the nation’s second-ranked team nine days later, as if those two games were somehow indicative of this team’s potential.
But us seasoned State fans, usually cautiously-optimistic on our best days, always knew better.
See, we knew this team had to greatly improve to compete for an ACC title. We knew we had the talent — all the pieces — to be a great team. But those of us paying close attention in December also recognized all that talent was disguising two fatal flaws that would keep us from hanging a banner in March an/or making a run into April: poor defense and poor free throw shooting.
But now, three games into a long, grueling ACC schedule, we’ve shown drastic improvement in both areas, and because of it, we’re atop the ACC standings at 3-0 after beating the nation’s top-ranked team.
In that short span, we’ve outscored Boston College, Georgia Tech and Duke 65-to-46 on the free throw line while shooting 74.7%, including 20-for-23 (87.0%) against Duke. We’ve also forced 30 turnovers and held all three opponents to a combined 70-for-191 (36.6%) from the field, including 17-for-60 (28.3%) from behind the arc.
When you consider that we’re shooting 82-for-164 (50.0%) in ACC play, you can see why this team is winning.
We won a close game at Boston College (a game we likely would’ve lost last year) and then got past Georgia Tech in a textbook trap game while saving our best performance of the season for #1 Duke, which the media is calling a statement game.
And I guess they’re right, because we won today despite previously-unbeaten Duke playing a very good game. And that’s what’s most impressive to me about today’s win: both teams played well but we proved the better team.
Perhaps that’s a tad arrogant this early, but a certain amount of arrogance can be healthy. Of course, we have to keep improving — we’re still missing easy layups and allowing too many second chance points. But we’ve won our trap game and our statement game, so now we have to get past Maryland on the road in a textbook letdown game.
Sure, we didn’t win anything but short-term bragging rights today. But if that same team that won today continues to show up, then State will be a tough out in March.
And that’s all that matters, because that’s what we really wanted from this team.