JOHNSON: Exam Week

RALEIGH, N.C. -- NC State righted the ship with two wins at home during the last week, but now the Wolfpack has to prove that it learned something.

Two weeks ago, the Pack was not in a good place. A thumping at home against Virginia, a last-second loss to Wake Forest and another thumping on the road at Duke. The three straight losses weren't difficult to reconcile on their own, but the way the Pack lost two of those games could have easily spent the Pack spiraling.

Throw into the mix an injury to T.J. Warren, who wouldn't be able to play against a very beatable Maryland team, and it was easy to envision the beginning of the end for the Pack.

But the team itself found an extra gear in the second half against Maryland, winning that game then holding on against Georgia Tech.

"Our guys came right back with energy... wanted to correct the problems and have more competitiveness," Mark Gottfried said during his weekly teleconference on Monday. "When your team is that way you know you have a chance. It doesn't guarantee you anything, but at least you know they aren't going to go south. I've liked that so far about our group."

So that's where the Pack is now – it has given itself a chance. But now comes the real test – has the Pack learned anything from the last two weeks? Can it win a game where it's a fairly decent underdog and show the defensive effort that has been consistently absent since the start of ACC play?

"We had a couple of nice wins and our team is gaining confidence, but we have a huge challenge on Wednesday," Gottfried said.

The Seminoles and the Heels actually present similar problems for the Pack. They both play at a fast pace but aren't particularly efficient offensively.

Carolina can't shoot – its ranked 286th in 3-point percentage and 343rd in free-throw percentage, which keeps it from scoring at the rate the Heels are used to despite still being great on the offensive boards. The Seminoles turn the ball over a lot – about 10 percent of their possessions end with the opponent stealing the ball – so it's possible that the Pack can get its transition game going. Alternatively, Florida State is shooting a 43 percent from 3 in conference games, the best mark of anyone in the league.

But both teams make their living on the defensive end.

Both guard the interior fiercely – teams are shooting less than 40 percent inside the arc against the Seminoles while teams are shooting a slightly better 43 percent against the Heels. That doesn't play to State's strength – a team that likes to work around the basket for its shots instead of bombing from outside. Neither team has been great on the defensive boards however, so it's going to be important for the Pack to get some second-chance opportunities in both games.

Getting through the week with a 1-1 record would be a victory for this team – and it would show some real growth from the disasters against Virginia and Duke. It's exam week, and the Pack needs to pass one of these tests.

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