Do you remember when State started the season with a ranking in the top 10? How about when they were supposed to win the ACC? CJ Leslie as POY? It seems like so long ago that the media was crowning this as the team that was going to bring glory back to Raleigh. Mark Gottfried was the savior for Wolfpack basketball. He was breaking the Wolfpack from the chains of the blues down the road. Is some of that true? Yes. As much as we all wanted? Absolutely not.
Most RATIONAL fans knew that the season wasn’t going to be as pretty as it was being predicted. Unfortunately, the media didn’t, and fed the rest of the country NC State steroids. This was portrayed as a team that wasn’t on the rise, but was already there. After hearing it on ESPN, hearing it on the radio, and reading it in print and online – a good portion of us really started believing it. That’s why we sit here now, the week of the ACC tournament, feeling as if we have to have a good showing to save the season.
This team is easily the most talented that’s been in Raleigh in years. There’s no denying it. CJ Leslie is arguably the most talented player in the league. Richard Howell turned into an absolute beast that was well deserving of his 1st team honors. Lorenzo Brown (while healthy) was everything that he was supposed to be. Scott Wood continued to be a threat from outside and the trio of freshmen generally lived up to their hype. This was it. This was the year. Unfortunately, it’s in danger of turning into the year that could have been.
From terrible fouls, to terrible decisions, to sometimes what seemed to be bad luck – this team didn’t come close to their ceiling. 3 or 4 years ago we would have all been happy with a 11-7 record in the ACC and a 22-9 record overall. To be honest, we should be now. This program has taken great strides. Looking back on it, though, this team could have easily been 14-4 and 25-6. A smarter play here, a few less silly turnovers there, and we’re not playing until Friday this week. We also wouldn’t be staring at a dreaded 8/9 game in the NCAA tournament.
For some reason it just never came together. Things just always fell the wrong way. Lorenzo Brown suffered his ankle injury during the worst part of our schedule. B1G member Maryland blew a 17 point lead against UVA in a game that could have given us a bye in the ACC tournament. Nothing ever worked out. The season that was supposed to put us back on top had us finishing 5th in the conference.
Does all that matter? Yes and no. We should have been better during the regular season. There’s no denying that. This team should have never lost against Wake Forest. They should have finished strong against Florida State and not depended on Maryland to help them out. That never happened though. Does that make for a lost season? It depends on what happens from here on out.
If this team loses to Virginia Tech on Thursday then I feel sorry for anyone with access to the internet. The sky will fall, Gottfried will be the equivalent of Sidney Lowe, there may even be a Teen Mom marathon on every station. Life will suck. If the team has a strong showing and makes a run to Sunday everyone will forget the Len buzzer beater. If they make a deep run in the NCAA tournament then the Wake Forest game never happened.
If you grew up watching and loving ACC basketball then you know one very important fact – the regular season means nothing. Growing up in North Carolina meant living for tournament week. It was like Christmas and your birthday rolled into one. You got to watch the early game at school and you raced home from the bus trying to catch the end of the second game. You had your team and there was nothing else. Residents of the state of North Carolina learn to talk trash from kids watching the ACC tournament at school.
As an adult, the same still applies. It doesn’t matter who won which game over who in the regular season because the regular season is just a warmup for the tournament. It doesn’t matter. It’s all practice for the games that really matter.
Rest easy State fans. This isn’t the year that could have been quite yet. This year is just getting started.