Everybody at once. Breathe in... breathe out.
Sloooowwwwly... drink it in. Don't swallow. Let it touch your tongue. Slosh it around. Gurgle. Just let it sit there as long as you like. This is your time.
For those that remember what it was like for NC State Basketball to compete on a national stage, isn't it a wonderful feeling to go to bed at night with that little extra comfort, with that little smile inside of you and that inner peace that you forgot existed? For those that have joined the NC State community during the last 15 years, then you've got a lot of learning to do to pull your weight in supporting a national program. (Even more learning than I had expected when I logged on Monday morning and saw that NC State students/fans don't have a clue how to celebrate anymore.)
What's finally sweeping through West Raleigh today is feelings and experiences that NC State alums over the age of 33 (and those lifetime fans over the age 28) have been trying to accurately convey to the younger set for years. The element of this season - this morning, to be even more precise - that is the most exciting is the impact that NC State's 16-5, 9-2 record (and Top 10 RPI ranking), is going to have on our "new fans." "New fans," defined as those that have entered the Wolfpack fold during the wilderness years since 1990, now get to experience something that they never have experienced – real success! And, once you get the taste of this, it is going to be very hard to slip back to any form of mediocrity.
The rules have changed; and perspectives will widen in the process. Suddenly everything basketball-related is important; and is so much more fun. This year, there are no bubbles with which to worry. There are no must-wins in the first or second round of the ACC Tournament. No Internet arguments based on bad analysis of what has to be done for NC State to be #64 in the country and squeak in for an obligatory loss. The Wolfpack is now playing for seeding in the NCAA Tournament, and the impacts are going to be wide-ranging on the daily lives of many of our fan-base:
--- Even though NC State all but has nothing worse than 2nd place in the ACC locked-up, Georgia Tech vs Wake Forest suddenly is more enticing to watch.
--- Player X's sore ankle in College Park or Coach Y's behavior in practice transforms itself into information that is as important to you as question #3 on your fluids test.
--- Students are going to gather at holes in walls in places like Panama City and Daytona Beach to watch the ACC Tournament as kids from SEC schools scratch their head in wonder. Some students won't even trek to sunny destinations, choosing instead to drive down I-40 to Greensboro clad in their red and seeking Clemson and Virginia fans with reckless abandon.
--- Fans will review calendars to compare their tests, obligations, and vacation days against the weekend following the ides of March.
--- Maps will be dusted-off to see how to travel to places like Buffalo, Denver, Columbus, Milwaukee, Kansas City, and (most hopefully) the home of the Tangerine Bowl... Orlando.
--- Suddenly, non-conference games like Texas Tech vs Kansas has meaning unlike you ever imagined... and conference tournaments that you never knew existed are very interesting.
Enjoy it. You deserve it. We all deserve it.
... crunch... Keys to Success – Balance Plus
After orchestrating a solid season that maximized the dearth of talent that resided in Raleigh in the 1996-1997 season, the 2003-2004 version of NC State Basketball is what many expected Herb Sendek to produce with his system around the turn of the last century. This Wolfpack squad demonstrates many of the same tenets that Sendek used to consistently keep his first squad competitive despite being over-matched in talent and experience by the other 8 ACC schools. This year's installment of Wolfpack basketball is generally disciplined, fundamentally sound, and well balanced in a manner that allows the Pack to attack in a variety of manners and exploit other team's weaknesses.
Early this year, however, the fundamentals and balance didn't come so easily. The absence of a point guard and the loss of Josh Powell forced, and continues to force, the Pack to take special care of the ball and rebound from all five positions, therefore eradicating fast break chances and opportunities for easy points. But the Atsurs, Watkins, Evtimovs, and now Bennermeans have molded themselves as a well-balanced unit around the Hodge-Melvin-Sherrill triumvirate and are generating success as a cohesive unit.
For this article I was asked to identify a single special key to the Pack's turnaround. I needed to find the on-the-court item to which can be pointed as the difference maker in the season. It wasn't difficult. It took me about one second to cite what has turned our season - Marcus Melvin's rebounding. Marcus Melvin's aggressiveness on the glass and his willingness/ability to "play big" on defense and on the glass has turned NC State's season around and moved the Pack off the bubble into legitimate Top 20 team.
As with most issues this one can be made relatively cleanly with numbers. In NC State's first 14 games, Marcus Melvin led the Pack in rebounding a total of 6 times and achieved double figures in boards just once. State was 10-4 after an all-too-familiar loss at Boston College on January 20th. Since the Boston College game, NC State is 6-1 and has won five in a row in the Atlantic Coast Conference. It is no coincidence that the Pack's success has coincided with Marcus Melvin exerting himself on the glass. In the last 7 games, Melvin has led the team in rebounding four times and has pulled down doubles figures in boards three times. That is three times as many double-figure performances in twice the amount of games as he had in the first 14 games of the year.
... crunch... Magical #20 a great indicates for the Wolfpack
Every sport, as well as the individual performances within them, contain benchmarks and thresholds that define different levels of success. College football has "winning seasons and bowl appearances" as a general barometer for minimum success. The bowl in which you participate further defines the level of success for the season. The same can be said for individual performances - running backs and wide receivers shoot for 1,000 yards while QBs might aim for 3,000 yards in the air.
In college basketball, one of the primary indicators of success has changed in the last decade. The "20-win season" was once a primary goal of programs and once served as the threshold that defined a successful regular season while also insuring your team's entrance into the NCAA Tournament. The implementation of the standard 28-game regular season altered the importance of a 20-win season by making 20 wins less achievable. Simultaneously, the introduction of computer models and strength of schedules as components of dancing in March created situations where the need to win 20 was no longer mandatory. Mandatory or not, winning 20 is something that separates the top programs in the country from the bubble programs.
Did you know that NC State is in a position to win 20 games in the regular season for only the 2nd time since 1989?
In 2001-2002, the Wolfpack feasted on a weak schedule to the tune of a 0-7 record against teams ranked in the RPI's Top 49 and a 20-2 record against teams ranked #50 or worse.
This season's success is far more legitimate and impressive, translating into a different level of more justified excitement in Raleigh. As of this morning, NC State is 9-4 against teams currently ranked in the Top 50 of the RPI. To put this into some perspective: Herb Sendek had only won 11 games against the Top 50, achieving a 15% winning percentage with an 11-61 record in the previous seven seasons. With just 2 wins in remaining games vs Carolina, Maryland, Georgia Tech and/or Wake Forest, NC State will have won as many games against Top 50 opponents in this single year than we have in the previous seven, combined!!
That's a real 20-win season!
... crunch... Successful stats are fun to list
- NC State has won 2 in a row vs Duke in Raleigh.
- NC State is ranked for the second consecutive week for the first time since Jim Valvano led the Wolfpack to 1989's ACC Regular Season Championship
- NC State is 13-0 at home this season and 12-0 in the RBC Center
- State is 2-3 vs Duke in the RBC Center.
- NC State is currently rated #6 in the Ratings Percentage Index, having played the 7th toughest schedule in the country.
- The Wolfpack is currently projected as a #3 seed in the NCAA Tournament by ESPN.com and CollegeRPI.com
- Herb Sendek is now 2-14 vs Mike Krzyzewski in the regular season and 3-17 overall.
- Herb Sendek's N.C. State teams are 2-5 against #1 ranked teams.
- NC State's 9-2 start in ACC play is the third-best league start in school history.
- Herb Sendek had never won 5 games in a row in the ACC. NC State's last 5-game ACC win streak was in 1984-1985. That team made the NCAA's Elite Eight. NC State plays at last-place Clemson on Wednesday.
... crunch... Parting Shot
I am not one to care very much about national attention and subjective polls but, NC State's lack of national respect has now approached a point of incredulous proportions. NC State is currently rated #6 in the RPI and #13 in the Associated Press poll. Every team rated in the RPI's Top 10 is also ranked in the AP's Top 10 except NC State. Pitt holds the #5 spot in the AP, but is rated #13 by the RPI.