7-2 & Rising Hopes

Alabama comes to town on Wednesday night as the Wolfpack plays host in the RBC Center to the only Top-10-ranked out of conference team that I can remember visiting the building. As usual, Section Six has a great preview of the game that can be viewed by clicking here.

(Sidenote – can anyone remember a higher ranked non-conference opponent in the ESA/RBC? It really sucks that the biggest non-conference game in the history of the building gets a 6:30pm tip and is scheduled when the students are home for exams.)

Approximately 30% of the season has passed and – to this point – nobody in their right mind would claim that Sidney Lowe and NC State have not overachieved to this point of the season. In fact, the N&O ran a story today supporting this and highlighting the Wolfpack’s strong play and ‘rising expectations’. (Link to story)

^This comes just one day after the N&O’s blog chimed in on the Virginia Tech – Wake Forest match-up on Sunday.

Virginia Tech ended up beating Wake Forest, 63-60 after Jamie Skeen’s last-second heave missed wide right. If those two teams don’t end up fighting for 11th and 12th place with Miami, the ACC’s in serious trouble.

That’s a nice (and quick) improvement from the preseason prognostications that predicted that the Wolfpack would finish 12th in the ACC and State fans would “get what they deserve” (as a preseason Fox Sports article stated)

State currently sits a surprising 7-2 with an RPI around #115 heading into a thirteen day stretch where the Pack will play five consecutive out of conference televised contests. The Pack will begin conference play in earnest on January 6th vs Boston College. Don’t worry about the RPI right now – the Pack still has eleven games scheduled with teams currently in the Top 40 of the RPI.

Before the season began, most Wolfpackers would have GLADLY taken a 7-2 to start the season WITH Engin Atsur’s presence. Can anyone really ask more than a 7-2 start considering that Atsur has missed two and half weeks of play?

I went “On the Record” with our thoughts regarding the season before we even knew how good Clemson was going to be this year. The entire entry can be seen here but can boiled down as follows:

* For this season’s 29 game regular season schedule – I am looking for the Wolfpack to finish the season 12-17 overall with a 3-13 record in the ACC. I expect a first-game exit from the ACC Tournament. Anything above this is gravy to me this year.

* A “stretch goal/expectation” would be a 15-14 regular season record; I don’t care how the wins are distributed. Finishing the regular season 15-14 (and potentially 15-15 after an ACC Tournament loss) would qualify the Wolfpack for an NIT Tournament appearance that would be unbelievable this season. This is the goal.

As the N&O intimated today but did not express in the framework of records and numbers – at this point of the season the Pack has managed to elevate their performance where they are making a strong run for the NIT and continue to provide a glimmer of hope for an NCAA Tournament invitation.

There, I said it.

Don’t confuse that with a prediction or an expectation that the Wolfpack will earn an NCAA bid; just realize that the Pack’s schedule is laden with opportunities to make splashes like the one that was made in defeat of an 11-1 Michigan team that seems headed to the big dance this year. Additionally, the NCAA Tournament committee does not hide the fact that they adjust for key injuries during the season if a team is at full strength and playing well at the end of the season.

The ACC is tough this year. A team with a strong non-conference showing – like the Pack is building – can make the NCAA Tournament with a 7-9 record in the ACC . It won’t be easy, but an objective observer who has watched teams play this season could definitely contrive a scenario where the Pack can get to 7 or 8 wins in the conference. Of course, a single injury to one of the Pack’s five main players would cripple any of this thought. Another key will be for State’s key players to avoid foul trouble in the games that the Pack has legitimate opportunities to win.

With all of this on the table, this five-game stretch prior to the start of the conference season is pivotal to setting the stage for the rest of the year. It breaks down like this:

* 5-0 and fans can legitimately shift their conversations from aiming for the NIT (with a 15-14 record) to aiming for the NCAA. State would be 12-2 with two very big wins vs Michigan and Alabama.

* 4-1 (11-3 overall) would keep fans hope for an NCAA Tournament bubble appearance alive for another couple of weeks. State’s strong play against Michigan and Virginia generates excitement for the Alabama game and Cincinnati’s early struggles gives the Pack hope on the road this weekend. The Pack would definitely have to finish at least 7-9 in conference play (potentially 8-8) for NCAA dreams.

* Before the season, a 3-2 mark would have been the hope/expectation for this stretch. Because of the Michigan win, a 10-4 overall mark prior to January 6th would keep some NCAA hopes alive but would more prominently place the Pack in solid contention to qualify for the NIT with a 15-14 (or better) overall record at the end of the year.

* Anything worse than a 3-2 mark in the next 5 game run would relegate hopes for the season much closer to what was expected heading into the year.

06-07 Basketball General

56 Responses to 7-2 & Rising Hopes

  1. beowolf 12/19/2006 at 12:00 PM #

    Nice analysis, Jeff.

  2. Pack Laddie 12/19/2006 at 12:04 PM #

    Jeff—GW was 12th when they came in last December. Bama is likely the first top 10 non-conference team to play the Pack in the RBC.

    Jeff: Thanks! After beating GW the way we did last year, it would be nice to win this one and be able to start to build a strong recrod against ranked non-conference opponents on our home floor

  3. Pack Laddie 12/19/2006 at 12:05 PM #

    Additionally, the game was played at about this same time in Tuscaloosa last year. I recall the guys flying home for Christmas from down there.

    Jeff: I think that it was the 21st last year. We watched it at Amedeo’s with friends during our Raleigh Christmas night. It is only fair that they didn’t have their students so we shouldn’t have ours. When I was in school, it didn’t matter. If you lived within 2 or 3 hours from Raleigh and could get a student ticket for a game like this you went.

  4. rockwolf 12/19/2006 at 12:15 PM #

    yep. the schedules for the past few years have been less than exciting. i’m hoping that Lowe will get the pack in some holiday tourneys next year.

  5. Texpack 12/19/2006 at 12:20 PM #

    If you looked at the schedule in August a 6-3 record at this point would not have been shocking. Beating Michigan is the only surprise RESULT at this point. The performances at WVU and UVa while short-handed are the real reason hopes are up.

    Jeff: I totally agree with this. Additionally, a 5-4 record at this point really wouldn’t have been shocking either. As bad as we were projected to be, a slip up vs Wofford or another OOC game seemed to be on the horizon.

  6. BJD95 12/19/2006 at 12:55 PM #

    Interestingly enough, TSN predicted us 9th in the conference (that’s the highest that I saw).

  7. ShootingGuard 12/19/2006 at 12:56 PM #

    A win vs Bama would do wonders for the young Lowe regime…

    I am really worried about us laying an egg vs Cincy (a not so exciting opponent on the road), although a win vs Bama would put our NCAA hopes in play even if we do lay the egg vs Cincy…Winning 1 of 2 from those guys is key for our NCAA hopes as SFN has pointed out…(How nice is it to have NCAA hopes after all of the media’s various hack jobs?? Would love to have an NCAA trip at the end of the season to rub in Jimmy Dykes’ and Greg Doyel’s faces…)

    With our depth, the quick turnaround from ECU to UNCW worries me some. We really need to go 3-0 vs ECU, UNCW, & UNCG…Those guys will play like it is the Super Bowl vs us, so we better be ready…

    Looking further ahead, BC is beatable. They are the kind of team that can thump someone one game and then party like Sean Williams and be on some other cloud the next game…Would be nice to start the ACC off 1-0, but, of course, we can expect plenty of dirty thuggish plays by BC (ala that “hit” on Cam Bennerman) as they try to beat us down all game long…But, hey, I like our chances if we get 5-10 chances to win the game with the final “play” in regulation or overtimes 1-2-3-etc…

    Ok, I’m getting carried away now. Can’t wait for the Bama game to start. Hopefully, they don’t knock us down from our own cloud tomorrow night…

  8. WP 01 12/19/2006 at 1:06 PM #

    what was Syracuse ranked when they came into the RBC circa ’00

    SFN: They weren’t ranked that year. ‘Coincidently’ we had that named opponent scheduled on a down year. It didn’t stop them from beating us. SU was ranked in the Top 10 when we beat them in Syracuse the year after. But, they ended up unranked and failed to make the NCAA Tournament.

  9. burnbarn 12/19/2006 at 1:10 PM #

    I too am fired up about Bama.. we have a nice opportunity to make a big spalsh with this game. I have read Ben’s comments about how the team is ready for this game.. I think they are too. I just wish we had Atsur.

    At least with Ferguson, GG can get a little rest and when Atsur comes back he can even move to the front court if needed so we could go with a 3-4 guard offense.

    This is a big game for us if we really want to ‘shock’ some folks. Let’s hope we are plugged in!

  10. Rochester 12/19/2006 at 1:18 PM #

    The TSN prediction (9th) was before Brackman went baseball only, so there’s kind of an asterisk on that one. At least if the reference above was to their preseason magazine.

    Wonder what Carolina’s non-conference expectations were a few years back. “Hampton, that’s a win, easy. Davidson, no contest. Binghamton, yeah, we should kill them by 50 points …” It’s one thing to look at the names on the schedule and pencil them into the win column. It’s another to win the games. I was hopeful that we’d be 7-2 now, but realistically I figured we’d get bit by someone we should beat. Hasn’t happened yet.

  11. choppack1 12/19/2006 at 1:20 PM #

    I like our chances tomorrow. Hopefully, we’ll do a better job on the boards. IMHO, our weakness on the boards is the reason we are 7-2, not 8-1.

    Looking forward to the addition of Ferguson tomorrow night. This should be a huge bonus for us and gives sidney a lot more line-up options. It will also allow us to run more and play a little more aggressively on the defensive side of the ball.

  12. redfred2 12/19/2006 at 1:24 PM #


    Bama, in all reality, should blow us away. I’m admittedly getting a little testy here, but I could have sworn before this season ever started, that many fans were saying any and every win, against no matter who, would be bonuses this season. It’s funny to me how quickly people forget and discard what they accepted as reality just yesterday.

    Now we have a #9 Alabama coming in, and we’re able to talk about our hopes for a possible win. It is truly incredible the job that’s taken place already by this coaching staff.

  13. nycfan 12/19/2006 at 1:29 PM #

    I agree with the earlier post that the record is only a game ahead of what was probably expected, but the performances in wins and losses is the cause for growing excitement about post-season chances. I think State can stick with just about anyone for 25-30 minutes. The trick will be how the team holds up down the stretch, especially in the gruelling ACC season (and I know that should include some relief with Atsur’s return and the addition of Ferguson).

    The Bama game is intriguing and a good chance for a huge win for State. Bama is reeling a bit from losing one of their best players and they play a controlled style that generally means they are grinding out wins rather than getting a KO punch type blow-out. Plus, based on the few (parts of) games I’ve seen them play, they are tough but over-rated, with a rather average looking offense. Likewise, Cincy is a name team that, despite one nice win, is just not the Cincy of old and presents an excellent chance for a big road win.

    The Michigan win was huge b/c it was a game State was expected to lose and after an awful start, your kids pretty much killed the lackluster Wolverines the rest of the way. But, despite their record, I wouldn’t put them in the NCAA tournament team column yet, b/c quite frankly the rest of their OOC record is mediocre and I’m not sure how they will fare against Big Ten competition — true, they really only need 8 conference wins (IMO) to be guaranteed a slot, but even with the Big Ten being a bit down, I’m not sold on Amaker’s squad having the intestinal fortitude to show up night in and night out the way they’ll need to do in order to get to that mark. That said, if they pull the upset over UCLA in their upcoming match-up, it is great for them AND for you guys.

    I was just telling a State buddy of mine I thought he wasn’t optimistic enough about this season at this point, so don’t let the preceding post get you down — just playing a bit of devil’s advocate on Michigan. From my perspective, State may have a hard time getting to .500 in the league (for instance, I think BC is tougher than you may be giving them credit for after two early bad losses), but they are light-years ahead of what I expected thus far. Certainly, I agree with the sentiment that if VPI and WFU aren’t the two worst teams in the league, the league is in big trouble; from what I’ve seen, State is much, much better than both of those blundering teams.

  14. Jeff 12/19/2006 at 1:33 PM #

    Cincy has got to be having chemistry issues. They have 6 (or more) JUCOs in their first year this season. Not good.

  15. Pack92 12/19/2006 at 1:46 PM #

    Prediction – IF Ferguson hits 4-5 3 pointers we win. Having to cover him would have to free up the lane and Alabama’s center can’t cover McCauley and Grant.
    Haven’t seen him play yet but I’m guessing Ferguson is a better athlete than Nieman? Not knocking Nieman but if he can give Ferguson breaks instead of having to play the whole game that REALLY increases our ability to push the ball and lets our playmakers create havoc in the open court.
    We could have won against WVA and have yet to be blown out or look stupid. I will not name the coach that made that a NCSU trademark.

  16. GAWolf 12/19/2006 at 1:48 PM #

    Redfred is right. We always get ahead of ourselves. Started a thread about this on Pack Pride and got destroyed… which is exactly why I had quit posting over there. Lesson learned… again. Hopefully we can hang tight tomorrow night and have a chance at the end.

  17. brown pelican 12/19/2006 at 1:51 PM #

    the last 30 minutes of the michigan game and the first 38 minutes of the uva game have given us all hope—the most powerful emotion of all—the players will continue to outplay the pre-season expectations for as long as they continue to believe that they can become something that the majority of fans and pundits refused to believe they could become—a cohesive, competitive team—no reason to expect that we won’t play with that belief and energy tomorrow—win or lose—i’ll take it—as an alumnus that is all i ask of this group—stretch the limits of what you might become and let the record take care of itself in the end—go pack—merry christmas to all—especially sfn—great job in ’06 fellas

  18. Rick 12/19/2006 at 1:52 PM #

    The obvious coaching strategies are what have me excited about the direction of the progrm. I am keeping my expectations down to avoid dissapointment (see I did learn something from the Sendek era) but we could be a decent team this year.

  19. redfred2 12/19/2006 at 2:03 PM #


    No bench to start the season, the senior leader and starting point guard goes down and has been out for 2 1/2 weeks, and you say we’re ONE game ahead of schedule.

    It is now all SO clear, in retrospect, isn’t it?

    Some of you guys could be rich, if you could come up with these bold predictions BEFORE the fact.

  20. burnbarn 12/19/2006 at 2:09 PM #

    During the MSM game, we came down with the ball and MSM had switched defenses.. Coach started whistling (he can do that loudly) and changed the set.. 3 passes and we had a bucket.
    It was greatwe didn’t wait 3-4 possessions until we made the move.

  21. ShootingGuard 12/19/2006 at 2:14 PM #

    I’m definitely not getting too far ahead of myself—I am prepared for any and all outcomes for this team…

    I thank the “Desert Fox” for this because, if the last 10 years have taught me anything, it is how to prepare for ultimate disappointment…

    If Bama blows us out, so be it…


    But for now, let me dream that Fergie comes off the bench like Robbie Benson and sinks the last 5-6 shots to win a great victory…

    All the way with the red hot poker!!

  22. nycfan 12/19/2006 at 2:22 PM #

    sheesh, redfred, I think most sports fans looking at State’s schedule through 9 games would have thought 6-3 most likely, with 5-4 possible if the Pack slipped up against a lesser opponent. As for before the fact, I’m pretty sure I did a game-by-game prediction for State’s season over at PP that I’m pretty confident was 6-3 at this point (coming out somewhere in the 13 to 15 win range, don’t recall), but I don’t have the time to search the archives there for that thread — and in any event that did not take into account the loss of Atsur (or, for that matter, the emergence of McCauley). Feel free to do the digging if it bothers you.

    The point is that while I think it would be fair to say that State may only be a game, maybe 2, ahead of reasonable expectations, I think the quality of play is MILES ahead of expectations, thus the high hopes alluded to in the original story.

  23. redfred2 12/19/2006 at 2:29 PM #

    Fair enough NYC. Somehow I didn’t pick up on much of your ^last sentence in your earlier threads.

  24. redfred2 12/19/2006 at 2:31 PM #

    ^”posts.” that is.

  25. choppack1 12/19/2006 at 2:54 PM #

    nycfan – I’d have to agree.

    I didn’t see us losing to Valpo, Wofford, etc…the Michigan game is the big upset. It was also impressive how well we hung w/ UVa. It’s not necessarily the record that has Pack fans pumped and hopeful, but how we’ve played in a 2 of our 3 high profile games, in spite of missing our senior leader.

    As the subject states – these next 5 games will give us a much clearer idea of where we really stand in terms of the rest of the year.

    As it stands right now, I’d call us NIT team, maybe bubble team. We go 4-1, I keep that assessment. We go 2-3 or worse, it’s the debacle everyone predicted.

    I stated in an earlier thread – it’s really all about conference play for us now unless we drop 4 of these 5.

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