Notebook: One Win Away From MSG

No. 6 seed NC State and No. 1 seed West Virginia will face off tonight in the third round of the National Invitation Tournament. Tip-off is set for 9:00 pm and the game will be televised nationally on ESPN.

  • This game will mark the third time that NC State and West Virginia have met in the NIT (1947, 1997, 2007).
  • NC State has now posted a 20-win season for the fifth time in the past six years.
  • NC State's five starters have averaged in double figures throughout the season. If the averages continued to hold by season's end, it will mark the first time since 1977-78 that five players have averaged double figures for NC State.
  • All five Wolfpack players were named to either the first or second All-ACC Tournament teams.
  • Brandon Costner scored 90 points in the 2007 ACC Tournament, the best mark ever for a Pack player in the history of the event.
  • Senior Engin Atsür is the 39th player in school history to reach the 1,000- point mark. He now has 1,167 points for his career - the 11th-best mark among current ACC players.

    The Wolfpack is making its 11th appearance in the National Invitation Tournament, its first since 2000. NC State posts an all-time record of 15-11 in the event following Friday night's win over Marist.

    The Wolfpack has made just one appearance in the NIT finals, losing to Texas in 1978. In 2000, State advanced to the semifinals in New York, losing to Wake Forest in the first game and then to Penn State in the consolation round.

    In 1951, NC State actually played in the NIT AND the NCAA Tournament in the same year. Following a win in the Southern Conference Tournament, the Pack travelled to New York, where it lost to Seton Hall in the NIT, then played in the NCAA Tournament back in Raleigh, defeating Villanova and then losing to Illinois and St. John's.

    The NIT was founded in 1938 and was originally made up of six teams. In 1941, the field expanded to eight and grew to six in 1969. All rounds of the tournament were played in Madison Square Garden until 1977, when the first rounds began to be played on campus, with the final four teams only playing in New York.

    In 1979, the field was expanded to 24 teams, upped to 32 in 1980 and 40 teams in 2002. In 2005, the NCAA took over the administration of the NIT and last season, narrowed the field to 32 teams.

    This will mark the third time than NC State and West Virginia have met in the NIT, and the 15th time overall. West Virginia holds an 8-7 advantage in the series and seven of the 15 games played between the two schools have been won by a margin of eight points or less and two have gone into overtime. NC State has never won a game played on West Virginia's home court (or the game earlier this year that was played in Charleston).

    Twelve of the 14 meetings between the two squads took place between 1946-47 and 1971-72. Since that time, the Pack played WVU in the Meadowlands during Sidney Lowe's senior campaign (the '82-83 championship season), winning 67-59. The teams met in the NIT in 1996-97, with the Mountaineers pulling out a 76-73 victory and then WVU beat NC State at home in 2004-05, 82-69. Earlier this season, the Mountaineers won 71-60 in Charleston.

    The Wolfpack, seeded sixith in the 2007 NIT, has knocked off third-seeded Drexel and sixth-seeded Marist and will now face one of the four number-one seeds in this year's event. West Virginia enters Tuesday night's game with a 24-9 overall record after defeating eighth-seeded Delaware State and fourth-seeded UMass.

    NC State has three full days between games, it's longest break between games in its last seven contests.

    If the Wolfpack were to win at West Virginia, the team would advance to the NIT semifinals in New York next week to take on the winner of the Florida State/Mississippi State contest.

    The Wolfpack squad that faced West Virginia in Charleston on Dec. 6, 2006, is not the same one that will travel to Morganton on March 20, 2007. The Wolfpack lost 60-71 to the Mountaineers on that date, playing without senior point guard Engin Atsür. In fact, that game was the first after Atsür sufferened the hamstring injury against Michigan on Dec. 3, therefore, it was the first that Gavin Grant was playing out of position.

    Sidney Lowe played just six players in the earlier match, with four playing the entire 40 minutes. The score was tied, 28-28, at the half and was close throughout the second half, but a 12-2 run by WVU sealed the Pack's fate. NC State commited 17 turnovers in the contest, and hit just 13 three pointers compared to just three by the Wolfpack.

    Much ado has been made about Wolfpack head coach Sidney Lowe's red jacket. For NC State fans, that jacket has become more than just a piece of clothing, it's become a good luck charm.

    That attention may be justified, as NC State has now posted a 5-1 record in games when Lowe has worn 'the jacket' and coached the entire game.

    Lowe broke out the bright piece of apparel on February 3, when his Wolfpack defeated third-ranked UNC in Raleigh, 83-79. He wore the jacket again in the Wolfpack's second game versus the Tar Heels in Chapel Hill on Feb. 21. NC State went into the halftime break down just one point (41-40), but Lowe got sick at halftime and did not come out to coach the second half (he actually went to the hospital instead). Without the red-jacketed Lowe on the sidelines, NC State was outscored 42-24 in the second half and went on to lose, 83-64.

    Lowe wore the jacket all four days of the 2007 ACC Tournament (the jacket was dry cleaned between games!), posting a 4-1 mark in those games. He also donned it for the Wolfpack's home game against Marist in the second round of the NIT.

    When Lowe has been on the sidelines (5-1/2 games) for the Pack wearing the red jacket, NC State has outscored its opposition 428-397. In those 11 halves of play, the Wolfpack has shot .546 (137- 251) from the field as well.

    NC State's draw in the NIT certainly didn't look good on paper. Sidney Lowe's Wolfpack - a squad which plays just seven players regularly - had just landed in Raleigh on Sunday night, March 11, after playing four games in four days in the ACC Tournament, when the news came that the squad would have to leave the following day for a Tuesday night game at Drexel - a team that many said should have been in the NCAA's.

    That total went to six games in nine days when NC State faced Marist on Friday night. Now, the Pack has a restful three full days between games, as the squad will take on West Virginia on Tuesday. The Pack has posted a 5-1 record in less than two weeks, knocking off three higher seeds in the ACC Tournament and one higher seed in the NIT.

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