The Big Four Three

I just knew that it was going to happen.

I can only shake my head in disgust while hoping that other real Wolfpackers feel the same way. That is, if they still have any feeling at all related to “our” once-proud basketball program.

Just yesterday I blogged an entry as a follow-up to “Sendek’s “Prominence” Evident in ESPN’s Omissions” that has received some attention on the internet.

Yesterday’s piece focused on the comments of one of my favorite College Basketball Columnists is Dan Wetzel who writes for Yahoo Sports.

Wetzel spent this week on Tobacco Road covering the string of big games between Maryland and Wake, Georgia Tech and Carolina, and Duke and State. Unfortunately for NC State fans…the Wolfpack’s impact on this national columist (despite his presence in the RBC Center on Thursday night) was totally non-existent.

After covering all three games on the home courts of Wake, Carolina and State, Wetzel wrote three different articles that highlighted both what he saw on the court and the major issues that grew from the games. He wrote the following three articles this week:

“Terra-fying” discussing Wake Forest’s program’s ascent over the last 4 years under Skip Prosser

This is #3? regarding Carolina’s renewed prominence on the college basketball landscape in Roy Williams’ 2nd year.

A Different Duke discussing Coach K’s amazing coaching….oh, read it yourself.

The amount of irony generated in Wetzel’s articles is as priceless as the amount of pain that they represent to Wolfpackers. The lessons for former & current NC State administrators (and many fans) are imbedded throughout both what Wetzel chooses to say, as much as they are in what Wetzel chooses to omit.

Depending on the larger point that you would like to make, a Wolfpack fan could pick any of a variety of topics from Wetzel to apply to the parody that has become NC State basketball —

* is it the tenure of Roy Williams and Skip Prosser at their respective schools?

* is it that Wetzel featured 2 home teams in his pieces and chose not to feature NC State on our home court?

* is it that Coach K traditionally has highly-talented squads but this year does not but has still managed to produce an undefeated team currently ranked in the Top 5 of the polls and in the computers?

* is it that Duke has been able to succeed at such a high level despite being thin because of a rash of key injuries?

* is it that Williams and Prosser have been able to assemble such massive amounts of talent in such a short amount of time?

That said… I don’t want to leave you with the impression that Wetzel completely ignored NC State in his three articles from Tobacco Road. He did refer to us two whole times in his three articles, making it very easy for me to share what he said related to our fine program:

And then there is this year, where a thin and (by Duke’s standards) moderately talented team has been racked by injury and illness only to keep winning anyway.

Which explains the satisfied smile Krzyzewski wore Thursday after his fifth-ranked Blue Devils battled back to beat North Carolina State 86-74 here in Raleigh and move to an unlikely 12-0 on the season

Meanwhile, Wake keeps gaining steam in what is turning into a dream season for the school. Long the fourth member of the ACC’s Carolina contingent, this small, academically competitive school doesn’t have the national championship banners, monster fan base or media attention of Carolina, Duke and N.C. State.

At least not until this year…Now Lawrence Joel Coliseum (capacity 14,665) is not just sold out, but rocking. Now the Deacons aren’t just winning (14-1) but scoring style points en route, what with Paul, Justin Gray and Trent Strickland combining for an aerial show.

See, we got mentioned twice in Wetzel’s time in North Carolina!!! Aren’t you so proud of where we are fifteen years of wandering in the woods?

But, the more that I think about it…them more I think that Wetzel probably knows even less than Brad Nessler on ESPN…what does he know? Both of them obviously hold personal vendettas against Herb Sendek and are just out to get him!!

(You know…the more I sarcastically say these things, the more I realize how easy it is to release any critical thought and just drink the kool-aid. If I weren’t totally numb to losing and being irrelevant, then I could definitely see the solace that can be found in being so ignorant.)

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2 Responses to The Big Four Three

  1. Dave 01/14/2005 at 3:22 PM #

    What’s scary is how often I’ve heard State fans say basically the same thing as you said, but without any hint of sarcasm. There is an ingrained sense of paranoia in the Pack faithful.

    It’s probably nothing that a few good years of winning wouldn’t cure, but you wonder if that prevailing attitude affects the teams (football and basketball) at all? Probably not, but I wonder.

  2. CanesLover 01/14/2005 at 3:55 PM #

    Related to your comments on Roy Williams I found this interesting article —

    In end, all three schools win in coaching roulette
    By MARKTUPPER – H&R Executive Sports Editor

    CHAMPAIGN – Roy Williams. Bill Self. Bruce Weber.

    Two years ago, they were the dominoes in a plink-plink-plink game of rearranging college basketball coaches that sent shock waves throughout the sport.

    Williams jumped from one glamour program to another, leaving Kansas for North Carolina.

    That left an opening at Kansas, and their athletic folks swooped in and lured Self from Illinois.

    And that opening was filled when Illinois turned to Southern Illinois and found Bruce Weber.

    What followed was turmoil, raw emotion and more behind-the-scenes work than any of us will ever understand. But the result of that tumultuous change finds those three schools dominating today’s national rankings, making one believe, in the concept, that things happen for a reason.

    Illinois is 17-0 and ranked No. 1. Kansas is 12-0 and ranked No. 2. North Carolina is 14-1 and ranked No. 3. How amazing is that?

    The subject arises because just one year ago, when Illinois traveled to play at Northwestern, Weber was still fighting the growing pains of finding peace and harmony with his new team. An unbeaten record and top national ranking seemed light years away.

    Illinois ended up losing that game against Northwestern, and when guard Deron Williams staggered out of the locker room, he had just one word to describe the experience: Embarrassing.

    As Illinois prepares for its return to Northwestern on Saturday, Weber remembers that moment all too well.

    “We were still going through some things,” Weber said Thursday. “Luther (Head) had his second incident off the court, he was just coming back and his mental state wasn’t very good.

    “The worst thing that happened was that we had a nine-point lead at halftime and were up by 13 or 14 points. The kids thought they were going to win the game. Deron got into foul trouble, we couldn’t make a 3, they sat back in the paint and things went their way.

    “They banked in a couple of 3s and there was a whole bunch of craziness. It was an attention-getting loss.”

    Just to make sure it got their attention, angry fans were waiting on Weber when the team exited Welsh-Ryan Arena.

    “I still remember walking out and the fans yelling and stuff,” Weber said. “We joked about it the other day. The fans were yelling, ‘You guys are idiots!’ Then the players walked through and they were saying, ‘We love you! We love you!’ And those were the guys who just went 0-for-12 from 3.”

    Actually, Illinois was 6-of-14 from 3-point range, but we get the point.

    “The thing is, we were a young team, a new team, we didn’t have great leadership and the immaturity off the court showed up,” Weber said. “We had to go through some growing pains to figure it out. Once we got everyone back and got their mental state (in order) and got to know our team and our rotations, then we were able to make some strides.

    “That’s just part of a team. You go through growing pains and learn about your team. New coaches, new trainer, new weight coach, new system, new conditioning, all the things we had to fight through last year.”

    None of which is unusual when a new coach comes to a winning program. Weber said there’s no doubt Self and Williams went through the same gut-churning challenges last year at Kansas and North Carolina.

    “When I went to Southern Illinois, that program had really struggled and the kids were very hungry, and they listened to everything I said,” Weber said. “They just thought I had some words of wisdom that would get them some wins and get them above .500.

    “But when you go to a place that’s had great success, players say, ‘Why are we changing this stuff?’

    “When Roy went to North Carolina, he tried to bring some strong discipline, getting them to play much harder than they had played with the previous coach and the kids didn’t understand that. Some of those guys were young and immature and not as coachable as you’d like, but now they are playing their butts off, pushing the ball on everyone and playing so hard.

    “It took them awhile to get that system.

    “Roy is very strong. He’s not going to mess with you. Some of them learned you’re going to do it his way or not be part of it.”

    Weber finds it more than a little bit interesting that Illinois, Kansas and North Carolina currently rank 1-2-3.

    “We all have everyone back, all three have talented kids, but it’s crazy and ironic that three guys change jobs and all three are in the top five in the country.”

    He knows his players are tuned into the irony, too.

    “They watch Kansas. They are one of their competitors, we feel, for keeping a top-five ranking and possible seeding at the end of the year. Bill is someone who recruited them and they like him and know him. But they watch everyone. Our guys are very basketball worldly. They enjoy watching things and enjoying knowing what’s going on in the basketball world.”

    Though not gone, the initial bitterness of the changes has subsided.

    The players got over it first. Some fans never will.

    Illini fans love Weber’s motion offense, feeling it generates more movement, precision passing and less predictability than Self’s offense, one that often reverted to the high-low double post.

    Kansas fans love the toughness Self has instilled and need to look no further than the past two games when Kansas showed its grit by winning at Kentucky (without inside force Wayne Simien) and at Iowa State. Both games could have been losses.

    And North Carolina fans love the way Williams has the Tar Heels playing in an up-tempo blur, piling up the points and torching Maryland and Georgia Tech to open ACC play.

    So in a way, everyone is happy. And if Kansas fans still feel jilted that Williams left them for North Carolina, or if Illinois fans still feel the sting of Self’s departure to his homeland in the Big 12, they have plenty to take their mind off the hurt.

    My contention all along was that Self had what it took to win a national title at Illinois, that Williams would eventually have won one at Kansas, and that Weber was an unstoppable coaching whiz who would have worked his way into title contention somewhere.

    As it turned out, the dominoes fell in perfect sequence.

    Sometimes, things really do have a way of working out.

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