Lail: The state of State

At about 5 o'clock on Thursday evening the phone rang at my home. It was a friend of mine - we'll call him Chris (because that's his name) - asking me if I wanted to use his ticket to that night's NC State-Boston College basketball game at the RBC Center.

I immediately thought that Chris had to work late or perhaps wasn't feeling well -the usual excuses why a hardcore Wolfpack fan wouldn't be able to make it to a nationally televised game.

"No," Chris said over the phone. "I know what's going to happen. They're going to win, and then they're going to lose three of the next four.

"I'm just tired of it."

Although he wasn't completely right on - the Pack lost, 93-81, to the Eagles - Chris' comment seems to summarize the attitude of some State basketball fans these days. This is what it has come to: fans deciding not to go to the games not because of the fear of losing, but for the fear of winning. (Or, in Chris' case, the fear of winning, losing, losing, losing, winning, losing, losing, etc. - an emotional roller coaster that State fans have seen before).

Keep in mind that Chris is a levelheaded person whose objectivity has been honed by spending a few years outside the state of North Carolina and in the media. But in his heart, he is a Pack fan through and through. Nonetheless, he's had enough.

As has another friend, "Tim," who e-mailed me his thoughts on the Pack's dreadful performance at the RBC Center:

"In year 7 of Herb [Sendek] and year 4 of the ESA we should be beating teams like Gonzaga, UMass and BC. Other teams have bad shooting nights and off-nights occasionally, but we have them far too often - it's a trend.  I know our players are better than this."

And then, "It's just maddening at this point. I honestly am to the point where I regret the money (and it ain't cheap) I spent on season tickets this year. We are the most loyal fans -  this side of [South Carolina] football fans - in the nation, and we deserve better than this.  The kids deserve better. Maryland won the title last year with zero McDonald's All-Americans, and we can't beat Gonzaga or BC with two?

"We were picked second or third in the ACC by most everyone. Wake and Maryland lost four starters.  Duke lost three NBA stars. This year was a rare one in the ACC, and windows like that don't stay open.  It appears we are not going to be able to take advantage yet again.  I can honestly see this team slipping back to 5 or 6 wins in the ACC and into the NIT.  Ugh."

However, things could be worse. One Eastern North Carolina writer, previewing Thursday night's ECU-Louisville game in Greenville - which followed the NCSU-BC game on ESPN2 - wrote that a national television audience could watch Boston College rout NC State in a half-empty, quiet RBC Center only to see ESPN2 switch over to a raucous Minges Coliseum where ECU stuns Louisville.

Like my friend Chris, this writer was half-right. The RBC Center did seem to be half-empty and quiet (with about 7,000 reported no-shows). At least, it appeared to be on TV. Me? I didn't quite make it to the game. I had a, uh, meeting to go to. Yeah, that's it: a meeting.

As if "Black Thursday" wasn't bad enough

In one fail swoop Thursday, sophomores Corrie Dawson and Marcus Hudson gave NC State's football momentum a good punch in the gut with their arrest for felonious transaction card theft and misdemeanor financial card fraud after allegedly using another student's campus card to buy snacks at a dormitory vending machine early Tuesday morning.

[The two are innocent until proven guilty, but just the same ... way to go, guys.]

There will be those that say Chuck Amato truly is turning NCSU into NORTH Florida State. Get ready for jokes like "it's not NC State ... it's the State Pen!" My advice to State fans, for what it's worth? Shrug it off, because virtually every school has problems and has athletes that get into trouble, and there are very few fans that can cast stones. (And there's really no need to go into detail here - you know who you are.)

One positive note

There was some good news to come out of "Black Thursday." Florida State released its 2003 football schedule, and it's a doozie, once again with non-conference games against Colorado, Miami, Notre Dame and Florida. And as expected, the Seminoles and the Wolfpack will meet in the Seminoles' last ACC game of the season. (The game will be November 15 in Tallahassee. FSU's last regular-season game is against Florida on November 29.)

This means that for the third year in a row, the NC State game is FSU's last scheduled ACC game. (In 2001 FSU faced Georgia Tech in December following the Florida game because of the events on 9-11.) This means that the ACC office recognizes that the Wolfpack is the Noles' only legitimate rival in the conference at this point, and that this game deserves to be at the end of the season.

However, FSU made one small mistake. NC State is FSU's homecoming game - just as it was two seasons ago when the Pack stunned the Noles 34-28 to become the first league team to win in Tallahassee. Keep this in mind, Florida State: Chuck Amato is still undefeated in Homecoming games at Doak Campbell Stadium.

ACC Basketball Standings - One Man's Opinion

1. Duke - Like there's any question at this point.
2. Wake Forest - Deacons showed all kinds of toughness against Maryland ...
3. Virginia - ... as did the Cavaliers at Duke.
4. Maryland - Terps have to put Wake loss behind them and get ready for a hot Duke team.
5. North Carolina - So, is Clemson catching up with UNC or has UNC fallen to the level of Clemson's program?
6. Clemson - Tigers showed fortitude in Chapel Hill, but 0-49 is still 0-49.
7. Georgia Tech - No. 7, but with a bullet.
8. NC State - Herb is squarely on the hot seat again.
9. Florida State - The Noles may be the only ACC team not on its way to some sort of post-season play.

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Matt Lail is the former Managing Editor of ACCToday.com. As a student at NC State, he was the Sports Editor of Technician. He has also worked for the News & Observer and as the Managing Editor of The Wolfpacker.


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