Expansion Won't Help Sendek for Long

Upon the arrival of Miami and Virginia Tech as ACC participants in 2004-05, several conference basketball coaches will find their jobs a bit easier. After all, if gaining a berth in the NCAA Tournament is considered a measure of success for middle tier ACC teams, then adding a couple of lower tier programs to the mix can only help in achieving that goal.

For NC State head coach Herb Sendek, the ability (or inability) of his teams to reach the NCAA Tourney has become the ultimate measuring stick of his tenure. But while adding Miami and Virginia Tech to the conference schedule may seem like a boon to the embattled coach, he likely will need more than that to ensure job security in the near future.

As the conference stands now, Duke and UNC (with the addition of head coach Roy Williams) are recruiting at a level that should keep them in the ACC's top tier for a long time. Maryland and Wake Forest can be considered tier 1-A; a slight notch below the Devils and Heels, yet far ahead of most national programs. NC State now finds itself competing with Virginia, Georgia Tech and Florida State (as evidenced by Leonard Hamilton's recruiting efforts) for favorite status in the second tier. Each of these programs must also avoid falling into the ACC basement, where the two newest members of the conference will give Clemson some company while the coaches build their programs.

With that in mind, Sendek will have to keep interest in his program from waning in the eyes of potential recruits. His track record as a recruiter is respectable, but ever since Julius Hodge signed with the Wolfpack a few years ago, he has had difficulty signing other prospects that have the ability to narrow the gap between his program and those of the ACC's upper echelon.

Rising high school senior Cedric Simmons, who has already given Sendek a commitment for 2004-05, could be a McDonald's All-American, and there are many who claim that incoming freshman guard Engin Atsur could be one of the ACC's best newcomers next season, but Sendek has missed (and continues to miss) on several top targets – and fans are starting to take notice. Of his recent signees, only Ilian Evtimov has actually "over-achieved" thus far as a prospect, a player Sendek has labeled as the "Philip Rivers" of the basketball team at recent Wolfpack Club meetings.

The growing ranks of "Herb-haters" within the NC State fan base are well aware of Sendek's troubles on the recruiting trail and have criticized him time and again for his inability to develop recruits into NBA players, his seemingly unending list of transfers and his penchant for running "ugly" and "undisciplined" playing styles. The mysterious decision by sophomore center Josh Powell to bypass his remaining years of eligibility for the NBA draft (against the advice of every sensible scout, coach or friend) did not help Sendek's image either.

Over the past two years, Sendek has been able to buy himself a little security by getting the Wolfpack to the Big Dance. But with the addition of Miami and Virginia Tech to the ACC, getting an NCAA bid will be more of an expectation than a goal, and NC State fans will not be satisfied with maintaining the status quo.

For now, the vultures will gather and watch. The next couple of years will be crucial for Sendek and his staff. And if fans and alumni feel that the current coaching regime cannot get the program to the next level, Herb Sendek may not be able to reap the benefits of expansion for very long.

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