State of the Pack: What has gone before…
So we, the Wolfpack nation, were reduced to this: pulling for the Maryland Quitterpins vs the favored Virginia Cavaliers. To make matter worse, the Terps teased us, at times controlling the game before falling short by only four points. So that was that; no first-round bye in the Acc Tournament, instead a meeting with Virginia Tech on Thursday afternoon.
But how did we get to this point? Time for a (not very) nostalgic look back at the 2013 season…
It started with rampant optimism. Many prognosticators had NCSU winning the conference, with at least one preaseason magazine picking the Pack to make the Final Four. The first sign that this might be inacurate came on the sunny isle of Puerto Rico, where State came out flat and lost to Oklahoma State 76-56 in a rout that may not have been as close as the score indicated. While the Cowboys would prove better than expected, the Pack would not meet their lofty expectations at all.
Still, the ship seemed to be righted on January 12th when State dominated then-number-one Duke 84-76. Standing at 14-2 and 3-0 in conference play, the Pack looked like they could handle anybody.
At least until the following Wednesday, when the game that perhaps defined this maddening rollercoaster ride occured: the 51-50 loss at Maryland. That’s when we all had to admit that despite the great recruiting class, despite the preseason predictions, despite last season’s surprise Sweet 16 appearance, this was no Final Four candidate.
There would be other peaks and valleys this year, beating North Carolina in Raleigh, losing to Wake Forest in Winston-Salem, but the Pack slid slowly down the ratings from a preseason #6 to the current position of a team unranked but at least certain of an NCAA bid.
If force to give this team a letter grade based solely on the regular season, I would go B-. C+ if not for the split with both Duke and Carolina, B+ if not for the losses to Wake and Maryland, and to FSU when the bye was still ours to lose.
I am a bit disturbed as I check out State message boards around the net. Some are already howling for Mark Gottfried’s head. While much did go wrong this year, I urge patience. We are pretty much guaranteed a second straight trip to the Dance, and as all State fans know, once you get there, who knows? Our lack of depth is all that is holding us back at this point.
As for the upcoming ACC tournament, we open, as mentioned above, on Thursday vs Virginia Tech at 2 pm. We should expect to win that one. Then it will be Virginia on Friday, and I am smelling a Pack victory there as well, although it would be something of an upset. If so, Miami will likely be waiting in the semifinals, and that should be that. But if, and I cannot see it happening, we somehow stun the Canes, either Duke or Carolina will be waiting. I think Carolina; Duke tends to look ahead to the NCAAs and sometimes stumble in the conference tourney.
Anyway, the winner of State/Miami would then face the winner of Duke/UNC. Any matchup of these four teams will be a final for the ages. I think Miami vs UNC, and all bets are off.