Most times when you dive into the world of hypotheticals, it gets messy. There ends up being wild exaggerations, misinformation or scenarios that are purely unfathomable.
“But…you’re talking about Shaq and a National Championship run…how are you not getting caught in the weeds?”
Let’s break it down, piece by piece, and allow me to show how it would have been plausible to put together a monster State team for the 1990-91 season.
Overview of Actual Season
That year, the Wolfpack finished 20-11 overall with an 8-6 ACC record. Rodney Monroe was ACC Player of the Yearm while Chris Corchiani and Tom Gugliotta were All-ACC 2nd Team. In short, the structure was set.
Duke would end up winning it all with Hurley and Christian F*cking Laettner. So yes, competitive ACC year, but it gives us a good barometer to see how far the Pack could have gone. So let’s jump right into it.
That year was Les Robinson’s first year as head coach, as Valvano moved to the broadcast booth. After Monroe and Corchiani graduate, the following years display Robinson’s coaching ability, or lack there of. Take out that 20-11 season and Les Robinson goes 58-86 over the next five, never getting above .500 in overall or ACC play. Let’s just say Valvano isn’t “dismissed” and stays through Monroe and Corchiani’s graduation. I can guarantee you, at the very least, a two-point swing per game with him as decision maker.
State gains one of the best coaches in the nation and a two point per game swing.
When your nicknames are “Fire and Ice”, you better be damn good. And they were… The duo of Monroe and Corchiani was electric and single handedly willed that team to multiple victories.
Monroe had a brilliant season and took home ACC POY honors as he put up 27 points a game. His 836 total points put him at 5th in the nation. Even more impressive, and something we’ll touch on in a bit, he lead the Conference in three-pointers. So not only was he flying down the court in transition, but he was spreading the floor, as well. Monroe was so good, we thought he’d be a sure fire State Mount Rushmore guy.
Corchiani also had an amazing year. In addition to 16 points, he dished double digit assists per game. That year he was first in the ACC for both steals (91) and assists (299), both nationally ranked him in top ten.
State has the ACC’s best scorer and 3-point shooter, along with the best steal and assist man.
Bryant Feggins and Tom Gugliotta were solid role players for the Pack that season.
Gugliotta put up 15 points and 9 boards a game, while shooting 50% from the field. That year he was good enough to crack the All-ACC second team, matching fellow GT forward Malcolm Mackey and under 1st Team Forward, UNC’s Rick Fox. Not bad company.
Feggins is the quiet role player in this situation. A quality season for the sophomore at 13 points and five boards. His best season was by far 90-91, which makes this dream scenario even more plausible.
State has the second most productive and reliable Forward pairing outside of UNC’s Fox and Chilcutt.
Kevin Thompson…I hate to do this to you. It just so happens that the position Shaq would play, was the weak link of the 90-91 squad. While he greatly improved for his junior and senior season, the sophomore year was less than ideal. Thompson put up eight points and eight boards per game. Out of the 27 regular season games that year, Thompson finished as leading rebounder only eight times. Worst yet, half of those games yielded single digit rebounds. When your Center is struggling to do the one thing he’s on the floor to do, that’s a problem.
State’s weakness is not having an above average Center that can score and rebound.
Here. We. Go. I’m as giddy to type this as I am to dream about it again tonight. Your first question/concern is if State was ever even on Shaq’s radar.
They most definitely were.
In an interview with Dan Patrick two years ago, Shaq was asked if there was any other schools outside of LSU that he came close to attending.
“North Carolina State . . . I really respected Jim Valvano, and as you know…they had the original Shaq…Charles Shackleford. That’s where I got my name and my identity from. So I was actually wanting to play behind him, but I said, “You know what? I’m gonna be my own Shaq and I’m gonna just take it down to Baton Rouge… ”
Good God. The only reason was his idol was there and he didn’t want to follow? Maybe there was also underlying concern of playing time or Valvano’s career coming to an end? Regardless, Shaq wasn’t too far away from being part of the Pack.
Now let’s layout Shaq’s 1990-91 sophomore season (if you’re keeping tabs, Thompson and Shaq were the same class and a perfect switch for this scenario), his averages per game were:
27.6 Points, 14.7 Rebounds, 5 Blocks, 1.5 Steals
*Insert exploding head gif*
Now of course, everything ran through Shaq at LSU. Can’t expect him to put up the same numbers on this Wolfpack team. But with Thompson’s poor stats, Shaq would improve them dramatically. Let’s just be conservative and say Shaq gets a dozen boards a game (+4 than Thompson) and scores 16 points a game (+8 than Thompson). You could then say, he alters State’s scoring and/or defense by an even plus 10 per game.
State would have the ACC’s leading blocker and rebounder, while gaining ten points a game.
With +2 for Valvano and +10 from Shaq, my public school education tells me that per game, State’s totals change by a dozen. Here is their full schedule from that year.
They beat #4 Syracuse…East Tennessee State…Kansas…Maryland…#7 Duke…Wake Forest
State now has a record of 26-5, 11-3 in ACC. Meaning that they are floating around the top five in the country and win the ACC. In other words, they flip with the eventual National Champion Duke Blue Devils.
State would murder Louisana-Monroe in first round, then have a slow start against grinders Iowa before pulling away in the second round. They would win comfortably, as Duke did, against Connecticut and St John’s heading into the Final Four.
There they would meet UNLV. No easy task with the success the Runnin’ Rebels had in the early 90’s. But here’s the thing, State would be matched up perfectly with them. Wouldn’t back down physically with Forward and Center play, and Monroe and Corchiani had the motor to go all damn night. It’d be close, but they’d pull it off.
In the National Championship they’d face Kansas, a team they already played and beat. Like most championship games, it’d be a nail biter.
Envision State up by three…Kansas with the ball…Jayhawk three-point attempt goes in and out…Shaq with the rebound…foul…hits one of two…full court chuck goes well wide…
Your 1991 NCAA Men’s Basketball National Champions…The Wolfpack of NC State.