It doesn’t get any more simple than tonight — NC State hosts Miami in an absolute MUST WIN early season Atlantic Coast Conference match-up. Period.
The Wolfpack needs to win an ACC game. Now, tonight. The Pack, picked in the preseason to finish third in the ACC, was embarrassed at North Carolina last week and thumped at Clemson on Tuesday. But those were road games and the Tar Heels are ranked No. 1.
State is 7-1 at the RBC Center this season. It’s the Pack’s ACC opener. State fans are antsy.
“We need to win,” NCSU coach Sidney Lowe says. “We started off on the road with two of the top teams in our conference, two nationally ranked teams, and that’s tough for anyone. Now we’re at home, and we just have to play well.”
In addition to simply ‘needing’ this win, tonight’s game represents a legitimate opportunity to potentially bolster the Wolfpack’s fleeting NCAA Tournament dreams if we could somehow muster an ACC record around 8-8. Miami has been teetering in and out of national Top 25 rankings and currently has an impressive 13-2 record with wins over Top 75 Virginia Commonwealth (whom Duke surely remembers), Providence and Mississippi State. The Hurricanes are currently #42 in the RPI and are trying to work hard to NOT become ‘this year’s Clemson.’
Despite our troubles, the Wolfpack’s #73 ranked strength of schedule has helped bolster our current RPI to #50 after winning four games over Top 100 teams. But, we are at the point now of needing to add to our acceptable foundation with some notches in the win column.
Marques Johnson will start at point guard and Ben McCauley is questionable for tonight (Link to N&O). As you can see from this analysis, the Wolfpack’s offense and defense have performed better with Johnson on the floor than with Gonzalez. The same analysis will statistically show you the unquestionable impact Farnold Degand’s injury on the Pack.
As always, Section Six has a nice preview:
They’re mediocre in the TO% and defensive rebounding areas, so the big question is, can they continue to force enough misses? While the interior defense should be fine as long as they stay healthy, they’ve never displayed an ability to slow down opponents’ outside shooting. It could be that this is a house of cards on the brink of collapse, and if that happens, they’ll come up short of the NCAAs.
BJD95: My gut simply tells me that Miami sucks. Now, that’s not to say we’re definitely going to win – we pretty much suck, too. But it’s vital that the Pack does win – it’s hard to see how this season becomes anything better than a full-scale disaster otherwise. On the flip side, a win might build back some confidence and offer a scintilla of hope going forward. As poorly at State has played so far, 1-2 would mean “holding serve” at home in ACC play, with both losses to 2 of the 3 best teams in the league. And really, outside of those top 3, every other team is mediocre or worse.
Also, the Pack is 3-0 in games that I attend, and I’ll drive through the snow to the RBC tonight. More importantly, my oldest daughter will be with me – as she was for a game in which we played at least reasonably well (Davidson). Frankly, we need all the mojo we can get.