They Love us…They Love Us Not

This has not been the prettiest season the Wolfpack have had to endure, but it's been exciting. From an amazing, overtime win over Carolina to a regular season ending, heart-breaking loss to Wake Forest, it has been an emotional roller coaster all season long. What remains to be seen is what NC State team the NCAA tournament committee will see.

There's no question NC State has the potential to be an NCAA tournament team. But with a loss to UMass and a trouncing at the hands of Temple, it may be too much for the NCAA committee to overlook. In addition, the Wolfpack has had trouble finishing off opponents, a huge mental key necessary for any worthy NCAA tournament member. Finally, the non-conference record leaves much to be desired. Only two of the Wolfpacks' non-conference opponents have the potential of making the tournament, Boston College and Gonzaga. With Boston College losing in the first round of the Big East tournament, they most likely will be NIT bound. Granted it is difficult to run the table in non-conference play, but NC State is better than 7-4. Don't you think?

Now on to the positive view we all hope the committee will use in determining NC State's fate. First, State has a very respectable ACC regular season record of 9-7. Three games; at Virginia, Maryland and Wake Forest, could have been wins instead of losses, pushing the record to a possible 12-4. Nice. Second, with Melvin's smooth stroke and Scooter's deadly range, NC State can sometimes hit spurts where it seems to be raining threes. But, can NC State have consistent games against possible foes such as Wake Forest, Duke or Maryland?

Finally, I can sum up NC State's best chance for making the NCAA tourney in one word, Julius. The ACC's second leading vote getter for the first team, behind only NCAA player of the year nominee Josh Howard, Julius Hodge has been outstanding all year long. Whether draining a long jumper with his unorthodox shooting motion or weaseling his way through the lane for a lay-up, Hodge always finds a way to keep his ball club in the game. First for the Wolfpack in points and rebounds, and second in assists and steals, Hodge practically does it all. His silky, smooth game is quite a treat for anyone to watch, regardless of what team you cheer. Well, Tarheel fans may not agree with me. Nevertheless, Julius Hodge is our best chance for making the NCAA tourney, period.

The game against Georgia Tech could probably be considered the first NCAA tournament game for NC State. Will the Wolfpack make the Big Dance if they win? There's no question the Pack needs a strong ACC tournament showing to solidify their place in the NCAA tourney brackets. Heck, maybe Herb will be carrying the ACC trophy home Sunday night, which would guarantee a bid to play a first round NCAA tournament game.

I would like to leave all you Pack fans to ponder one question. What could have been if Ilian Evtimov had been wearing the Red and White of State this year?


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