We told you unequivocally that Saturday’s home tilt against Miami was a “must win” – and tonight’s matchup with Georgia Tech is no less so. The Pack doesn’t want to hit the road for contests at Florida State and Duke with a 1-3 conference record – especially considering that no way in hell can we beat the Devils in Durham. If you require substantiation, consider the combination of these factors: (i) Duke’s ability to force turnovers, coupled with our willingness to commit them; and (ii) the league’s best (and deepest) perimeter offense, coupled with arguably the league’s worst perimeter defense. That means that a tough game in Tallahassee is all that would stand between NC State and a 1-5 ACC mark. That sound like a recipe for diaster to you? It sure does to me.
On the flip side, the Pack can be significantly more relaxed hitting the road at 2-2. Now, State is playing with house money, knowing that a split puts us at 3-3 with favorable home matchups (Wake, Virginia Tech) to wrap up the first half of ACC play. Even if the Pack loses to the Noles, 4-4 is the most likely scenario. The team’s psyche never is damaged by falling more than 2 games below .500, or by falling into the ACC cellar.
In terms of match-ups, I think NC State is in a favorable position. The Jackets do not have mutliple, dynamic guards – Anthony Morrow is the one man the Pack really has to shut down. Yes, Mr. Fells, that means that you have to show up tonight, and remain fully awake for all 40 minutes. When Morrow comes out for a rest, so should Fells. Back in the spring (see comments), three players in the McDonald’s AA game really impressed me – Beasley, Hickson, and Lawal. So far, Beasley has matched all the hype, but Hickson and Lawal have yet to register a dominant performance in an ACC game. NC State needs to prevent a coming out party tonight, and whoever is willing and able to play tough defense on (and box out) Lawal should garner most of the minutes at the 4.