NC STATE steps in right direction leads to NCAA'S
March 18, 2012By Cavalier Dave Forrester of Hugh M Cummings High School
Wolfpack’s steps in right direction lead to NCAAs
While it always seems as if the North Carolina State men’s basketball team is trying to catch up, it’s a good time to remember that the Wolfpack is ahead of schedule.
In coach Mark Gottfried’s first season, N.C. State has re-emerged with an NCAA Tournament bid that seemed unlikely when the season started. It became reasonably within reach by the time the middle of the season arrived as so many pieces were in place.
“He put a lot of confidence in us and it’s a matter of us proving him right rather than proving him wrong,” senior guard C.J. Williams said of Gottfried.
So despite a four-game losing streak in February, the Wolfpack jumped back on the fast track and won four games in a row. That was enough to put N.C. State in the NCAA Tournament field.
And in many ways, it’s a good thing that’s out of the way — whether the Wolfpack is excused after its first tournament game or if it advances all the way to another, dare we say, meeting with North Carolina.
You already can hear the buzz of excitement around the Wolfpack regarding the future, when depth issues might not be so distressing and Gottfried has his plan fully implemented. So the “when will N.C. State return to the tournament?” discussion won’t have to be part of the backdrop in the coming seasons.
Still, it’s even fair to debate whether N.C. State’s credentials were worthy of inclusion in this year’s NCAA field because a case could be made either way. But what seemed mostly clear is that Gottfried played it right.
The first-year coach didn’t campaign out of line to beg for a bid, but instead got the Wolfpack straightened out just in time to make a push in the postseason.
A 22-12 record was built by playing 13 games against teams that ended up in the NCAA Tournament. The Wolfpack won four of those.
Yet one-third of the team’s losses (three times to North Carolina and once to Syracuse) came against teams tagged with No. 1 regional seeds, so it’s not like N.C. State should feel out of its element in the national tournament.
Weeks on the NCAA Tournament’s bubble watch have probably hardened this group. Perhaps the NCAA bid can quash the constant uproar about officiating that seems to follow the Wolfpack.
There actually might be something more compelling to focus on: N.C. State’s team.
While much of the state’s focus will fall on the two national powers playing this week in Greensboro, the Wolfpack will be trying to carve its own path starting in Columbus, Ohio.
It has been a twisting and winding road for the past 12 months for N.C. State. It was a year ago today that Sidney Lowe was forced out as coach.
N.C. State hasn’t caught up all the way in that amount of time. But the Wolfpack might be gaining, and it could take a few more steps Friday when it plays in another NCAA Tournament.
Bob Sutton is sports editor of the Times-News.