North Carolina State isn't off the NCAA Tournament bubble yet, not even after a 78-57 thrashing of Boston College in the opening round of the 2012 ACC Tournament on Thursday.
Because, really, how much does a 21-point win mean when it comes against a team whose season comes to an end at 9-22?
Sure, 21-11 looks nice on paper for the Wolfpack, as does its 9-7 mark in conference play, until you consider that the ACC was once again a two-team league as it always is, thanks to the duopoly at the top that Duke and North Carolina enjoy year in and year out.
That's not to say that NC State doesn't deserve an at-large bid or won't garner one on Selection Sunday. Mark Gottfried's squad came into the week ranked 49th in RPI and 53rd in strength of schedule, according to kenpom.com.
Which is to say, they came in firmly on the bubble, especially with their two quality wins (vs. Texas, at Miami) practically canceled out by a pair of bad losses (at Stanford, vs. Georgia Tech).
Luckily for NC State, the path to the Big Dance hasn't reached its conclusion just yet. The Wolfpack will have a golden opportunity to cement its status as an at-large lock against a solid Virginia squad. A win over the Cavaliers would surely boost the 'Pack's profile enough to earn a ticket to the Dance, if not also to get it punched.
That is, unless CJ Leslie and company suffer the first blow, which would leave them groveling at the feet of the college basketball powers-that-be on Selection Sunday.