Today is the day.
Monday, December 22, 2008.
Today is the day that we naturally step into elevated interest in the 2008-2009 basketball season. You can almost say that today is the day that we really kick off our attention to the season as the Wolfpack will host Top 25 ranked Marquette in the RBC Center.
The Wolfpack has done and an adequate job of holding serve in the early part of the season en route to establishing a 7-1 record against soft competition while squandering a great opportunity to beat Top 25 ranked Davidson a couple of weeks ago. Tonight’s 7pm game televised on ESPNU marks a legitimate opportunity for State to elevate into ‘NCAA Tournament relevancy’ with an eye on a January 3rd visit to Florida and the start of the ACC season.
Due to the opponent, tonight’s game represents almost as much about the heritage of the NC State program as it does the importance of the current season. Marquette, then coached by the legendary Al McGuire, was the Wolfpack’s opponent and victim in the 1974 NCAA National Championship game.
The following are some random bytes:
- Marquette’s roster ranks #315th in the country in average height but has done an admirable job rebounding. We will get an obvious opportunity to see if NC State is a better rebounding team this year than we have been the last two seasons.
- NC State plans on honoring the 1973-1974 National Championship team tonight. (Link)
- I can’t make tonight’s game for holiday & family reasons that are innately obvious to everyone in the world except the people who are responsible for NC State’s basketball schedule…so, I will be very interested in the reports about this ‘honoring’. If this is anything like last year’s God awful embarrassment of the 1983 ‘honoring’ then I will actually be glad that I didn’t invest more time into the event in addition to the money for my lifetime rights and season tickets. I am not going to say more about this as you can click here for a detailed commentary.
- If NC State were healthy, then I would be calling for a Wolfpack win tonight. This one just feels like a good night for the Pack. But, the lingering injuries and those injuries’ impact to playing time of four of our top seven players – Degand, Gonzalez, Fells & Smith – throws too large of a wrench into my plans. If it weren’t for those injuries, I’d be referencing the Pack’s win over Michigan in 2006 for some similarities of the positive vibes.
- Marquette is led by strong backcourt play and surprisingly strong rebounding that compensates for weaker offensive play on the post. This is why the injuries to Degand, Fells and Gonzalez are so vital to the Wolfpack’s chances.
- If you need another barometer to monitor tonight then pay attention to the officiating. If our big men get fair treatment and we get to the line in a quantity that is proportional to our attempts down low then we still have a good chance. If the officials decide that teams in red don’t deserve the same treatment in the post that teams in blue deserve then our chances reduce significantly.
- Can I ask the natural question of why NC State continues to annually schedule the ONLY decent home non-conference games on odd weeknights around the holidays when it is difficult for fans to attend and when the students are on break? Does anybody realize that many lifetime rights holders live somewhere other than Raleigh? I honestly don’t think that our department could TRY to pick a worse way to leverage our home court for both the team or the fans.
- As much as I don’t like when/how this game was scheduled, I love the fact that this game was scheduled. Coach Lowe does a fantastic job of mixing the program’s rich tradition into the current landscape of college basketball. Playing a Marquette gets us a great blend of the two. You can see our original entry at the time this game was announced by clicking here.
The following is a “Gamenight” preview from a fantasy sports site I found…
As the non-conference season enters its last few weeks, a number of teams are still hoping to strengthen their case for an at-large bid, and two such teams will meet in Raleigh when #45 Marquette (9-2) faces #49 North Carolina State (7-1).
Marquette’s two losses have been fairly decisive, as Dayton and Tennessee both beat the Golden Eagles by double digits. Their only strong win came at home over Wisconsin, and it’s easily better than any win North Carolina St. has recorded. The Wolfpack’s only loss came against Davidson, as Stephen Curry led a strong Wildcats charge down the stretch to erase a halftime lead.
While Marquette hasn’t been that impressive, NC St.’s schedule has been very weak, and a difficult game like this one is not a great time to be depending on a freshman point guard in his second career start. While the Wolfpack will try to take advantage of Marquette’s lack of size, I’ll take the Eagles for a narrow road win.
…and this link will take you to a recent article focused on Marquette’s inside deficiencies.
And that’s one of the reasons Tennessee’s Wayne Chism went bananas on the Golden Eagles earlier this week and finished with a career-high 26 points and 11 rebounds in the Vols’ 80-68 victory over Marquette. You see, Chism is 6-9, 242 pounds and a legitimate high-major big man. Marquette has nobody who fits that description. Bruce Pearl noticed it on film and exploited it on the court.
"Wayne had a favorable matchup," Tennessee’s coach said, "and he took advantage of it."
So the question is simple: How many more will take advantage of it?
Lastly, the following are some some interesting items across the internet today related to both this event and the 1974 NC State-Marquette game:
- GoPack: Remembering 1974
- N&O (Tysiac): Transfers critical to Wolfpack’s 1974 Title Run
- N&O (Tudor): Sloan’s champs won series of nail-biters
- WRAL: Small town Raleigh marveled at 74 Wolfpack
- Scout Message Boards (Marquette): You may enjoy some of these memories:
Marquette had an unbelievably quick 2-2-1 full court trapping defense that was the bread and butter of the team….Walton and Tatum on the front line…speed and quickness…MU was able to generate pts off of this defense…but not vs NCSTATE….I never knew why until I worked at Rick Majerus’ basketball camps a few yrs later…and I heard him lecture about top PG play and how to beat a trapping press like the 2-2-1 MU utilized so successfully.
Said Rick, “The key to breaking a trapping press is to do what Monte Towe did to us in the ’74 title game. He did something I had never seen before. He dribbled into our trap and when we sprung it, Towe kept his dribble and dribbled backwards where he had come from…with our front line our of position after committing on the trap…and our back 3 guys already committed to zone guarding the back cutters, Towe would make a crisp pass to the open cutter and they beat our press every time…We were really counting on that press to give the 5-5 Towe some problems. But it did not. Towe was one of the top PGs we had ever faced.”
Al blew the national championship game…it would have been hard…but MU could have beaten NCState….but this game was forgotten when Al won the final game in ’77…but this game…and the game vs. Ind in ’76 when Al blew the game with a late T….and the Kansas State game on St Patrick’s Day in March, ’77 when MU fell behind by 14 but turned the tide….cut it to 7 and Al sensing that KState was choking grabbed his neck tie to signal the choke to his team and the refs thought he meant that the refs were choking so they T’d him up…and KS made the FTs and went ahead by 10…AL sat down and told Hank…"If we lose this game…I am done in Milwaukee."
Luckily for Al, MU came back and won by 1….and MU beat Wake Forest…UNCC and then NC for the national title…
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