The Wolfpack has moved into a decent position by winning seven of its first 10 ACC games. Included in those victories was Thursday night's 61-52 victory against host Georgia Tech, avenging what was really the only ugly loss to date on the Wolfpack's resume.
"You always do (look at the possibility of making the NCAA field)," coach Mark Gottfried said. "Anybody that tells you they don't, they're lying. You always do. But that can not be our emphasis every day."
The Wolfpack (18-7) will have a week off to assess its credentials embarking on the final month of the regular season. It would be a good idea for N.C. State to concentrate on specific assignments as well because the most brutal stretch of the schedule is next. Three nationally ranked teams await the Wolfpack.
There's a road game to Duke, followed by home matchups against Florida State and North Carolina. Then there's a trip to Clemson.
"The way to get in the tournament is to win games," Gottfried said. "Everybody that's in the tournament every year, they've played their way in."
STRATEGY AND PERSONNEL
STAR WATCH: There never has been much debate about sophomore F C.J. Leslie's abilities, but his efficiency has sometimes come into question. Now that it's apparent at the Wolfpack will play with a limited bench, there's little room for Leslie to malfunction for long stretches. He pulled off a double-double with 13 points and 10 rebounds at Georgia Tech, committing only one turnover in 35 minutes. He also made 5 of 10 shots from the field.
If the Wolfpack can receive that type of contribution from Leslie without major blunders, good things could be ahead and it should also go a long way in helping coach Mark Gottfried show more confidence in the player.
Committing to areas other than scoring is something the Wolfpack covets from Leslie, and he showed the potential for that by grabbing nearly one-third of the team's rebounds in the latest game.
FUTURES MARKET: The Wolfpack is trying to use G Scott Wood as much as possible as a primary offensive weapon. Wood has pointed out the need to work harder to find openings, but the commitment to go to him is there if he does his part.
With a season-high six 3-point baskets (on 10 attempts) last Saturday against Wake Forest, Wood isn't shy about launching those shots. This could be a sign that he's coming out of a big shooting funk -- he entered the game a combined 8 for 24 in the three previous games.
--Junior G Scott Wood's ACC-record streak of consecutive made free throws came to an end during Thursday night's road victory against Georgia Tech. He made two first half free throws to stretch the record to 65 in a row dating to last season. He then missed for the first time this season on a would-be three-point play in the second and then missed two more in the final minutes, so he ended up a team-worst 2-for-5 for the game.
Wood, though, will be going back to this venue because Georgia Tech is playing ACC home games this year at Philips Arena, which is the site of the ACC Tournament next month in Atlanta.
"We just play and he continues to do what he does," coach Mark Gottfried said in general of not making a big deal about Wood's free throw shooting.
-- Senior G Alex Johnson scored five points in the Feb. 9 game against Georgia Tech. That's a notable accomplishment because he accounted for all the points off the bench for the Wolfpack, which has received more than 86 percent of its points this season from players in the starting lineup.
For Johnson, it's the most points in any ACC game in his first season since transferring to the Wolfpack. In the previous three games combined, N.C. State reserves had scored a total of six points (two points in each of the games), so any contributions in the scoring column from reserves seem monumental.