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.
It’s Not Over Till It’s Over
Look…I know the odds of NC State’s Men’s Basketball team going to the NCAA Tournament is next to zero percent.
In fact, according to Bart Torvik, the Wolfpack have a 1.1% chance of making the Dance as an at-large bid.
Don’t accuse me of wearing rose colored glasses, because I’m not. The fact remains, it’s not over until it is over.
What would have to happen for NC State to make the NCAA Tournament?
More than likely, NC State would have to win out the rest of the way, in games against Boston College, @ FSU, @ UNC, Duke and @ Pitt.
Maybe there’s a scenario where the Wolfpack beats BC, FSU, Pitt and beats either Duke or UNC. In order for that to play out, I imagine the Wolfpack would have to make a splash in the ACC Tournament as well.
Or maybe NC State could earn a bid winning 4 of 5 if they all of a sudden put together astronomical offensive and defensive efficiency numbers, which thus far has killed their position in the NET Rankings.
Either way, you would need some legit Cardiac Pack vibes for this team to make the Dance.
Call me unrealistic, but I think NC State should be in the NCAA Tournament every single season. Historically speaking, heading into this season, NC State ranked 27th for the most wins in college basketball history. If I lowered the standard a bit to 75%, accounting for an off year every now and then, the program is still way off the mark.
Read into this what you will, but if the Wolfpack doesn’t go to the Big Dance this year, that means they will have only gone twice in the past 7 years, and in my opinion, that’s unacceptable.
With that being said…GO PACK!
#6 NC State 70 UNC 80: BOX SCORE (with notes)
#6 NC State was defeated by their rival UNC this evening, falling 70-80 to the Tar Heels. Below is the Box Score with notes underneath.
- This game came down to shooting.
- UNC shot 50.8% from the field and NC State shot 35.2%.
- The Tar Heels shot an insane 52.4% from three, hitting 11 from beyond the arc.
- The Wolfpack shot 9 of 27 from deep.
- Junior Guard Aziaha James led the Pack with 24 points (10-24), and also grabbed 9 rebounds.
- Senior Forward Mimi Collins had a double-double of 11 points and 10 rebounds.
- The Pack needed to feed Collins. She was 3 of 6 from the field.
- Junior Guard Saniya Rivers had 13 points (4-13), and knocked down 4 three pointers (3-6).
- Senior Guard Madison Hayes had 11 points (4-12) and 9 boards.
- Senior Center River Baldwin struggled, hitting 2 of her 9 shots.
- The Wolfpack did manage to score 17 second chance points, compared to UNC’s 7.
- They also made 11 free throws, compared to UNC’s 5.
- UNC played extremely good defense, but NC State missed an obscene amount of shots around the rim.
- The Tar Heels looked like the better team tonight, leading for 3/4th of the game.
The Wolfpack will play at Duke on Sunday at 5:30pm on ACC Network.
#6 NC State Looks to Sweep Rival UNC This Evening
The 6th ranked NC State Women’s Basketball team is looking to sweep their rival UNC this evening at 8pm on ACC Network. Back on February 1st, the Wolfpack beat the Tar Heels 63-59. At the time NC State was ranked 5th, and UNC was ranked 24th.
Since arriving in Raleigh, Wolfpack Head Coach Wes Moore has led NC State to a 13-9 overall record against the Tar Heels, but they are 4-6 in Chapel Hill under his watch.
NC State lost to UNC the last time the game was played in enemy territory, falling 46-57 loss in Carmichael Arena on January 15th of last year. In that contest, the Wolfpack were ranked 11th and the Tar Heels were ranked 22nd.
If NC State wins tonight, it will mark the 4th time that Moore has led the Wolfpack to sweep UNC in the regular season.
Historically, NC State holds a 63-54 advantage in the series against UNC, but they are 20-30 on the road.
NC State’s Wes Moore is 1 of 15 on the Late Season Watchlist for the Naismith Women’s College Coach of the Year Award
NC State Women’s Basketball Head Coach Wes Moore is 1 of 15 on the Naismith Late Season Watchlist for the Coach of the Year Award.
The leader of our Pack 🐺🐺
— NC State WBB 🐺🏀 (@PackWomensBball) February 21, 2024
Currently, Moore has led NC State from being unranked in the preseason polls, to #6 currently. The Wolfpack are 23-3, and numerous publications project them to be a #1 seed in the NCAA Tournament.
Moore was a finalist for the Naismith Coach of the Year Award in 2020-21 and a Semifinalist in 2015-16.