We discussed the importance of the remainder of the Wolfpack’s non-conference in this great entry that you should read if you haven’t.
In the piece we discuss that the Pack has an opportunity to run the table against a nice stretch of six opponents that would produce an 11-3 record (and a Top 50 RPI) heading into ACC play. (I projected 11-3 as the most likely scenario before the season began; of course I projected losses to different teams than we have experienced thus far).
As you probably don’t want to remember, State lost at Cincinnati by nine points last year in a game that wasn’t as close as the score would indicate as the Pack was struggling to adjust to life without Engin Atsur. You can click here to peak at last year’s nightmare.
This was, by far, the worst effort we have seen from NC State in the Sidney Lowe era. Aside from the continued offensive excellence of Ben McCauley, there isn’t much nice to say. The Pack finished just 3 shy of its all-time record for turnovers, set in 1972 vs. UNC.
Despite Cincinnati’s name recognition, the Bearcats are currently 4-6 with a miserable RPI of #250. They lost to Belmont by 11 points, beat Western Carolina by only 2 points at home and have struggled in other games that you would expect them to have won more impressively.
BUT…beware this superficial view of their performance to this point of the season. This blog entry from the Cincinnati newspaper this week discusses the improvement in the ‘new’ UC.
Of course, the bottom line is that UC is still 4-6 and has lost four straight. But since the final nine minutes of that Illinois State game Dec. 8, UC has played with more purpose and passion. Players seem to be very much listening to and believing in Mick Cronin; they wouldn’t sacrifice their personal well-being for overtly physical play otherwise.
In the long run, no matter how bad Cincinnati looks on paper, if State can tonight then this ‘name program’ in a major conference won’t optically hurt the Wolfpack’s resume if we are on the NCAA Tournament bubble in March.