We have made it to Sweet Sixteen weekend on a bit of a roller coaster. At this stage in the season, it purely comes down to winning, not style. NC State beat NC A&T and then a feisty South Florida squad with the same “formula”; go down early, get banged up with physical play, have an amazing third quarter and win.
So with that, let’s play some Bad News / Good News…
Bad News – Indiana is for Real
If you looked at the first weekend of games, the best team in the Mercado region was 4-seed Indiana. They held VCU and a decent Belmont squad to an average of 40 damn points. We’re talking serious lockdown defense. Meanwhile, on the other end, shooting 46% with only 15 total turnovers. We’ll go in-depth tomorrow for the game, but this one will be close.
Good New – Wes Moore is the Best
Can only imagine the number of State fans rubbing their eyes and wondering what planet they were on, when they saw a STATE COACH make the perfect adjustments at half. Yet, it’s something Wes has been doing most of the year. This week he was named the National Coach of the Year and was emotional speaking about it’s connection to Pat Summit. If there is any coach I’d trust right now to evaluate the Hoosiers offense and defense and then “fix” said problems, it’s Wes Moore.
"I think he knows the sky is the limit. In practice, he says if it's not perfect it's not right."
— Bridget Condon (@BridgetCondon_) March 25, 2021
Bad News – Kayla Jones Ain’t Coming Back
1000000% hope this is wrong, but it doesn’t look good. It was revealed that Jones suffered a Patella Tendon injury. What does that mean?!? Two cases, completely dependent on extent of possible tear…
-If it’s not torn but strained, she can play through that. If it’s a slightest or tears, she also could play, just a matter of understanding that “this is my senior season, this is how I could go out, risking the future.”
-If it’s a true tear, it’s a no-go. Maybe it’s an awesome story of her coming in for the final 30 seconds to say she played, but it’s not going to be for any kind of extended time or effort.
The biggest problem is time. A two-week turnaround, in either scenario, is less than ideal.
Good News – Boyd Might be Best Player Right Now
Not sure how many times they mentioned it on the broadcast (over/under 538), but Boyd would absolutely be a starter on just about any other team in the country. Each night, see fills the stat sheet from top to bottom. This NCAA Tourney; 36 points, 15 rebounds, 2 steals, 3 total turnovers…I mean, come on, that’s incredible.
When you realize that Jones is in her senior season, it definitely is a tougher pill to swallow. Just realize, Boyd is the best player, in the best position to fill in. Oh, and she’s a sophomore gaining loads of experience.
Bad News – Physicality Versus Cunane
There were moments in the opening rounds, that even I was tired watching. The second-team All-American took every punch and literal elbow inside the paint. Easily the most tired she’s looked heading into both 4th quarters just about all season. Her shooting percentage shows. Through the two games, Cunane shot 6-22 (27%), which is (ironically…perfectly) half her average on the season.
Good News – Can’t Stop, Won’t Stop
You think Cunane just isn’t going to show up? Even though she struggled to finish at the basket, Cunane still put up a dozen points each game and got her opponent(s) into foul trouble. Hobby also contributed in her 18 minutes of playing time.
Here’s also something to think about; there are two types of “physical” play. The first is what State would see against a team like Baylor. Tall, strong Center and Forward presence that stay put wherever they are standing. Then there’s what we saw at times against NC A&T and S. Florida…grabbing, pulling, borderline tackling. Both are hard to deal with, no doubt, but the latter adds layers of frustration and unfocus.
In the end, KEEP WINNING. The Wolfpack has seen every style of play this season and has walked away the winner on far more occasions. Knock on wood, that health, energy and focus remain high.
State plays Indiana on Saturday at 6pm on ESPN2.