One and done. The saddest words in NCAA Basketball fandom.
This year, they apply to the Wolfpack. Yes, I am going to once more whine about What Went Wrong, but first the all-important Disclaimer:
No disrespect intended to the Temple Owls. They are a very good team and played an excellent game. Hey, they were a Nine seed; can we really be surprised that they upset an Eight? Not me, folks; I had them to win this one in my bracket. It’s one of the few things that are going right there, and the one thing I wanted to be wrong about.
As usual, the Pack came out with an air of entitlement, as if they could just walk out there and would be awarded victory. They didn’t realize until they were down 18 that this was a bad plan. When they did, they went to the usual Plan B: Scott Wood.
Unfortunately, Temple remembered to guard Wood, and he was stifled until late in the 2nd. Meanwhile, the Owls had a three-point threat of their own in Jake O’Brien, and he dropped 4 of 6 from behind the arc for 12 of his 18 pts. State rarely got a hand up against him. Frankly, it seems the Pack had one player who played defense with any consistency all year, that being Richard Howell.
Just when all seemed lost, State started to rally. Wood began to hit, starting with a couple of free throws followed by threes on two successive possesions. But it was late in the second half by then. Still, Pack nation had new hope.
Things really got interesting when the lead was cut to two on a Lorenzo Brown three-changed-to-two with two seconds left (no gripe though, his foot was clearly on the line per the replay). But Temple guard Khalif Wyatt would have none of it. When he was fouled on the next possession, he calmly sank two free throws to bury the Pack. Wyatt finished with 31 points to lead all scorers, while Lorenzo Brown led State with 22.
In addition to the forementioned problems, State could not buy a free throw of their own. This had been a season-long problem as well, and is inexcusable. Only Wood gets a pass on this one; the rest of the team should spend the entire summer shooting free throws.
So goes another season, and it is not likely anyone will be picking State to win the conference next year. That won’t be a bad thing, as we seem to fare better when we can sneak up on people. Except for 1974, and David Thompson isn’t coming back.
So what now? I suggest the usual: watch and root for (or against, if you are one of those nobody-but-us fans) Carolina, Miami and yes, even Duke. Enjoy the upsets. Writhe in pain as your bracket inevitably crumbles (or maybe that’s just me).
Football is coming. And the expectations will be close to zero.
Just the way we like it.