The ACC starts tonight’s ACC-Big Ten Challenge action already in the hole 0-2. You can click here for the set up and some great perspective on what is going on around the league.
The Boilermakers come into tonight’s game with a 5-1 record against a decent schedule of the following teams:
Samford 80-40 Win
IUPUI 77-57 Win
Grambling State 82-30 Win
Kansas State in Hawaii 88-79 loss
Missouri in Hawaii 82-61 Win
BYU in Hawaii 87-85 Win in OT
…but their schedule can’t have been *that* tough as the Boilermakers enter tonight’s game at ~#116 in the RPI while NC State enters at ~#20. A win on the road at a B1G school would add another foundational characteristic to NC State’s 2014 NCAA Tournament resume. In fact, tonight’s game might serve to be as winnable as at least two of the remaining three ‘named’ opponents on the Wolfpack’s out of conference schedule – Tennessee, West Virginia and Cincinnati.
1. GOING FOR 7-0
A win at Purdue would lift the Wolfpack to a 7-0 start, the first such start for NCSU under Mark Gottfried. NC State is currently 6-0 to start a season for the first time since 2004-05, when the Wolfpack won its first eight games. If this edition of the Wolfpack beats Purdue and gets to 7-0, it would be the 10th time since the start of the ACC (1953-54) that NC State has started a season with a 7-0 mark.
2. EARLY LOOK AT NC STATE’S RESUME
Although it’s early, NC State is starting to build itself quite the tournament resume. CBS Sports ranks the Wolfpack 19th in its RPI rating, ESPN.com charts the Pack 22nd. The Wolfpack has three wins over teams in the top 100, and a fourth over Hofstra (RPI 101). NC State and Miami are the only ACC teams with two victories over current top-30 RPI teams, according to ESPN.com.
3. OPPONENTS FEELING REJECTED
NC State is among the national leaders in blocked shots. The Wolfpack is currently first in the ACC and tied for seventh in the nation (with Purdue) with 6.83 blocked shots per game. Led by BeeJay Anya’s school-record 10 rejections, NC State recorded 14 blocked shots in a 79-43 win over Jacksonville. The Pack also owns two games with seven blocks and a game with six swats. Anya leads the conference with 23 swats, which is also good for eighth in the nation. Only two teams (Kentucky and Texas) in Power 5 conferences have more blocked shots than NC State.
4. PACK IN THE ACC-BIG TEN CHALLENGE
NC State and Purdue will be reuniting in this the 16th edition of the ACC-Big Ten Challenge. The two teams met in the very first challenge in 1999, with NC State winning 61-59 at Mackey Arena. The Wolfpack also defeated Purdue in 2004. NC State is 6-8 all-time in the event, including a 69-48 rout over Northwestern last season. (NC State didn’t play in it in 2008). Historically, the Pack is 113-99 vs. the current membership of the Big Ten.
5. 3 SEASONS, 3 NCAAs
Mark Gottfried, in his fourth season at NC State, will be working toward mentoring his team into the NCAA Tournament for the fourth straight season. The Wolfpack has made the Big Dance in each of his first three seasons, making Gottfried the first Pack coach and just the fourth in ACC history to achieve that feat. It marks the first time NC State had made three straight tournaments since 2004-06.
History lesson: There are just some things in life that serve to impact our psyche in different ways. As I reflect on the fact that it has been 15 years since Justin Gainey hit a last-second shot to be Purdue at Mackey Arena in 1999 I cannot help but feel phenomenally old!!! FIFTEEN YEARS!!!
Many fans may not remember now…but that particular game was HUGE at the time for NC State and our embattled coach, Herb Sendek. The pressure was (understandably) mounting on Sendek in year five of his tenure at State after four consecutive seasons of failing to advanced to a single NCAA Tournament. State started the season by christening the ESA with a nice win over Georgia; and the win over Purdue just a couple of weeks later seems to indicate that Sendek may have turned the page. His teams had been infamous for laying rotten eggs in out of conference games against decent opponents, so the win at Purdue served as one of Herb’s best OOC victories of his tenure (even after 10 years of coaching in Raleigh). With the momentum of the Purdue win State started that season 10-1, with our lone out of conference loss coming at Tulane. Ultimately, all of that momentum and talent was wasted as that season unraveled in the most painful of ways (#NCStateShit) after the ‘legendary’ John Clougherty charge and technical foul call on Damon Thornton at Maryland on February 6th. The then 15-4 Wolfpack ended up in a tail spin from which Sendek could not recover and the Wolfpack underachieved for the year – ultimately, losing two games (choking a lead vs Wake Forest in the semi-finals and then losing by two points to Penn State) in Madison Square Garden during the NIT Final Four.