"We still have a pulse," coach Mark Gottfried said after Wednesday night's 77-73 victory against Miami.
Still, the Wolfpack can't afford a slip-up in Sunday night's regular-season finale at Virginia Tech in the first meeting this year between the teams. N.C. State has suffered only one loss to a team in the bottom five of the ACC standings and Virginia Tech is an opponent that fits that description.
The sweep against Miami could turn out to be significant because both teams might be considered so-called "bubble" teams for the NCAA Tournament. The Wolfpack also owns sweeps against struggling Wake Forest and Boston College.
"There are other teams around the country like us," Gottfried said. "You have to earn your way in by winning games."
-- Senior G C.J. Williams was the only four-year scholarship player in the program to be part of Senior Night activities when the Wolfpack played the regular-season home finale against Miami. He has had a breakout season, though it was soiled to a degree as he went scoreless in 25 minutes against Miami, sitting out for a brief period during the second half with an injury.
--Junior G Scott Wood has been through a shooting slump, but there were signs he's snapping out of it after making five 3-point baskets, including a go-ahead long-range shot with 1:07 to play, in Wednesday night's 77-73 victory against Miami. Concern had been spreading about Wood's recent shooting. "I think he's a guy that will eventually make them like he did early," coach Mark Gottfried said. "I'm going to continue to encourage him."
BY THE NUMBERS: 38.5 -- Percentage of free throws made (5 of 13) in the loss at Clemson. The Wolfpack entered the weekend third in ACC free-throw shooting at 73.2 percent.
QUOTE TO NOTE: "We've made too many of those attempts. So we've got to be a lot better than that." -- Coach Mark Gottfried on his often-undersized post players trying to shoot over taller opponents. North Carolina rejected eight Wolfpack shots in the teams' second meeting of the season.
STRATEGY AND PERSONNEL
THIS WEEK'S GAMES:
--at Virginia Tech, March 4
KEY MATCHUPS: The Wolfpack could take advantage in the lane with F C.J. Leslie's athleticism depending on the health of Virginia Tech's post players. There are potentially good matchups in the backcourt (N.C. State's G Lorenzo Brown or G C.J Williams vs. Virginia Tech's G Erick Green), but depth issues across the board will be important on both sides.
ON THE SPOT: Coach Mark Gottfried has largely been lauded for helping turn the Wolfpack around in his first season on the bench. But a February slide in the form of a four-game losing streak caused reason for concerns and it's something he wants to correct because it's bound to impact the team's postseason destination. The Wolfpack would covet a return to the NCAA Tournament, but at the very least it wants to be in position for a bid to the NIT.
A chance at an above-.500 ACC record exists and how Gottfried steers this team during the last weekend of the regular season and through the ACC Tournament largely will determine how his first-year job performance is evaluated.
FUTURES MARKET: The Wolfpack's goal of 11 ACC victories has gone by the wayside and now there's simply the issue of finishing above .500 in ACC play. The Wolfpack is 7-7 with two games left and its hopes for an NCAA Tournament bid have dimmed considerable the past couple of weeks. Certainly these are times when leadership is vital and it would seem that senior G C.J. Williams would be the best candidate to provide that. He has had a breakthrough season and he can't afford anything except a strong finishing kick in order to help put the Wolfpack back on track.
-- Junior G Scott Wood leads the ACC in free-throw shooting percentage at 91.9 percent entering the week. However, he didn't attempt a free throw at Clemson or against Miami. He's averaging slightly above three free-throw attempts per game in ACC games.