Two weeks ago I pointed to this 3 game stretch (Duke, VT, Miami) and said that NC State needed to win 2 out of 3 to save their season.
Doing so would mean upsetting one Top-25 team and beating Virginia Tech on the road. The odds weren’t great, but in classic NC State fashion, just when some were leaving them for dead, they resurrected themselves and went on a run.
NC State won all 3 of those games. They took out two Top-25 teams and beat Virginia Tech on the road. We learned something about NC State over this run. We learned that when the pressure is on, they can produce. However, tonight we’ll learn another lesson, a lesson that’s potentially just as important.
How will the Pack respond to a ‘trap game’?
A trap game is one of those games where you are coming off an emotional high, playing in a game you are supposed to win, before heading into another game where there will be big emotions involved.
To even get into a trap game you have to win some big games. After those wins, you start feeling good about yourself. You start basking in the good press and the constant compliments. It feels good.
But it also exposes weaknesses.
Tonight we’ll find out how mentally tough NC State is. We’ll find out if they are a contender or a pretender this season.
Georgia Tech has lost 3 in a row. They have lost 5 of their last 6 games. They are 2nd to last in the ACC (1-6). This is a team that is struggling.
Meanwhile, NC State has won 3 in a row. They’ve won 6 of their last 7 games and they are 4-3 (middle of the pack) in the ACC. Their only conference losses have come to the top teams in the league.
By all accounts, NC State should win this game. But that’s the potential problem. With a rivalry matchup with UNC on the horizon, State has to head to Atlanta where Georgia Tech is 1-3 on the season, with a win over #12 Miami. Their only losses have come to 1st place Clemson, 3rd place Pitt and current 2nd place (#13) Virginia.
NC State knows this and will come out with effort for sure, but this game is going to be about focus. Can NC State lock in, focus, and take good shots? Can they stay disciplined on defense?
If they can, then NC State will likely crush the Yellow Jackets. If they can’t, they will lose this game. That’s how wide the swing can be for NC State. When they are focused on valuing the basketball, taking good shots and playing as a team, they can beat almost anybody. But when they get a little loose and lazy, start settling for poor shots, they can lose to a lower tier ACC team on the road.
This is a Keatts game.
This is one can really look at as one that falls squarely on the coach’s shoulders. Everyone knows that the focus and energy of a team coming off a stretch like this (and looking ahead to a rivalry game) is going to drift. It’s going to feel comfortable to coast, but it’s up to Keatts to hammer this point home and keep his guys locked in.
The great coaches take games like this and challenge their teams to not only win but to overwhelm and blowout opponents in trap games. That way, when those moments of coasting (or lack of focus) do set in, there is a built-in buffer.
I hope I see Keatts lead by example in this one. I’d like to see his energy level ramped up to set the tone. To let his guys know that this is not the time to take plays off or to take their foot off the gas. Instead, it’s a proving ground. A time to let the league know who they really are, and a warning shot to UNC for their upcoming matchup.
NC State Ranked 38th in the NET Rankings After FSU Win
NC State’s Men’s Basketball team ranks 38th in the NET Rankings, moving up 2 spots after beating FSU by 28 points last night.
The Wolfpack currently ranks 3rd in the ACC in the NET Rankings, trailing only UVA and Duke.
NC State has another Quad 4 game this Saturday at home, hosting Georgia Tech at 1pm on ACC Network.
Notes on NC State’s Best Start Under Kevin Keatts, and the Wolfpack’s Best Start in Nearly 20 Years
Last night, NC State improved to 18-5 overall and 8-4 in the ACC after defeating FSU 94-66 in PNC Arena. The Wolfpack are off to their best start under Kevin Keatts. Here are a few notes on last night, and the historic start for Kevin Keatts.
- NC State snapped a 5-game losing streak to FSU.
- This was the largest margin of victory (28 points) ever against the Seminoles, surpassing 25-point victories in 2001 and 1955.
- This is NC State’s best record through 23 games (18-5) since 2005-06 (19-4).
- This is the Wolfpack’s best ACC record through 12 games (8-4) since 2005-06 (8-4).
- This is the first time NC State has scored 90+ points in an ACC game since December 7th, 2019 against Wake Forest (91-82).
- Terquavion Smith scored 32 points, which was 1 point away from tying his career high of 33, which he scored against Coppin State in December.
- The Wolfpack have won 7 of their last 8 games.
- This is the best start Kevin Keatts has had at NC State through the first 23 games.
- They started 16-7 his first two seasons.
- This is also the Wolfpack’s best start in ACC play under Kevin Keatts through 12 games (8-4).
- His best start prior to this year was 6-6.
- NC State went 6-1 in January, which was the best record in the month of January since 1988-89 when the Wolfpack went 8-1.
- The Wolfpack entered February with 17 wins, which is the most wins entering the month in program history.
NC State 94 FSU 66: ACCDN Highlight Reel & Condensed Game
NC State 94 FSU 66: BOX SCORE
NC State improved to 18-5 overall, and 8-4 in the ACC after defeating Florida State 94-66 tonight in PNC Arena. Below is the Box Score.