There is no doubting North Carolina State is a talented team; thus far, though, they haven't lived up to their potential. They began the season ranked No. 6 in the AP Top 25 preseason poll, poised to win the ACC and overtake their in-state rivals. Miami beat them to the punch.
A grinding year has left many NC State fans disappointed, wanting more from a team they thought was a National Title contender. They finished 22-9 overall but finished just No. 5 in the ACC, missing out on a first-round bye via tiebreaker to Virginia. Joe Lunardi projects them as a No. 8 seed in the NCAA Tournament this year, a seed which is not what fans were looking for after NC State's promising run to the Sweet Sixteen last year.
All hope is not lost, though. There is still much basketball to be played, mainly in the form of the ACC Tournament.
Because of that missed bye, they must play Virginia Tech in the first round tomorrow.
Virginia Tech made things interesting back in February, pushing NC State to overtime before ultimately coming up short. NC State is the superior team in this match-up, and should easily advance behind their star-studded front line, but they cannot underestimate the Hokies.
Virginia will be waiting for NC State in the second round. If the Wolfpack is able to get past Virginia Tech, that is.
Virginia is a solid defensive team, but they struggle to score on the offensive end too often. Also, Virginia has no one to cover C.J. Leslie or Richard Howell on the inside. NC State has the size and rebounding advantage in this one, giving them the firepower to avenge their loss to the Cavaliers earlier this season.
If the games go according to the seeds, NC State will be facing Miami in the semifinals of the ACC Tournament. Miami has struggled down the stretch losing three of their past five games. Two of those losses were to Wake Forest and Georgia Tech, further clouding the legitimacy of the Hurricanes.
NC State has the talent to match-up with Miami and, quite frankly, the talent to match up with any team in the ACC.
Whomever they come across in Greensboro, NC State will put just as talented a lineup on the court as their opponent. Leslie is an NBA-caliber player, and Howell is a double-double machine. They have a nice balance of an inside-out game—with Scott Wood and T.J. Warren on the outside, both shooting over 42 percent from three-point range—and have a defined floor general in Lorenzo Brown.
Their downfall this year has been their inconsistency and turnovers. Talent-wise, though, they are as stacked as any team entering ACC Tournament play. Whether they are able to overcome their mental mistakes is yet to be seen, but their experience will definitely help.
NC State narrowly missed out on the Elite Eight last year, losing a heartbreaker to Kansas in the Sweet Sixteen. Most everyone on their team this year was a part of that run, giving them the experience of playing in the pressure situations they will face this weekend and next.
Add in their talent level and their favorable draw in the ACC Tournament bracket, and NC State has been given the ingredients to making a run in Greensboro this weekend. Watch out for the Wolfpack to finally start living up to their lofty expectations, vaulting themselves into a much better seed for the NCAA Tournament.