In the previous four years of Sidney Lowe’s guidance, NC State’s Basketball team has proven an ability to win tough out of conference games whether played in the RBC Center or on the road – Villanova, Cincinnati, Davidson, Seton Hall, Marquette, others. Unfortunately…that didn’t happen for the Wolfpack this year and we now find ourselves in a competitive position that some could describe as ‘behind the 8-ball’ or even as bad as ‘up the creek’.
I recognize that the quality of your wins is a major factor in NCAA Tournament invitations and seeding. But before the season began I carved away some specifics and took a general look at the Wolfpack’s Basketball Schedule.
With 30 games on the schedule before the Atlantic Coast Conference Tournament, the Wolfpack plays 14 out of conference games because of the three tournament games in the Charleston Classic. “EYEBALLING” the schedule, one would think that 20 regular season wins would be a recipe for an almost guaranteed spot in the NCAA Tournament; with 18 pre-ACC Tournament wins serving to place the Wolfpack on the weaker side of the proverbial NCAA Tournament bubble. Now that we know that the ACC is weaker than we had originally hoped, I don’t think 18 wins could get the Wolfpack into the big dance unless we performed decently well against our four decent out of conference opponents — Cue Captain Obvious – we didn’t.
As you can see from the table below
Let’s presume for a moment that Wolfpack could (miraculously) achieve an 8-8 record against one of the more difficult ACC schedule’s and use this as a foundation of our an assumption set. (Obviously, any conference performance that varies from this peg will play a role in impacting NC State’s NCAA Tournament resume.) This would mean State would needed to generate a minimum of an 11-3 record against non-conference opponents to ‘be the discussion’ in March. A 12-2 record against the 7th toughest OOC schedule in America coupled with an 8-8 ACC record would have appeared to create safe haven and probable Top 8 NCAA Tournament regional seed for the Wolfpack. That isn’t going to happen.
As you can see from the table, NC State has ten OOC match-ups that are ‘hold serve games’ and should result in wins. Any stumbles against these foes, ala East Carolina a couple of years ago, could be deadly for the Wolfpack’s season (and could intellectually be argued to be deadly to Sidney Lowe’s coaching career as you extrapolate the potential impact of such a loss to the Wolfpack’s season).
This leaves four ‘swing games’ that will play a defining role in the Wolfpack’s quest for success this season. We have highlighted those four games in the table above – Georgetown, @ Wisconsin, @ Syracuse, and Arizona. As we now know…the Wolfpack whiffed on this and now are in a lot of trouble.
Just a single victory against that^ subset of opponents was an absolute must and would have gotten the Wolfpack to a minimum of 11-3 to be on squeeking onto the NCAA Tournament bubble with an 8-8 record in the ACC.
As I see it today, a 9-7 record in the ACC is a necessary to fit ourselves squarely on the NCAA Tournament bubble.
As most everyone sees it today, based on our our uninspired play to this point of the season, that scenario is shaping up to be a pipedream.