NC State has played its way near the top of the ACC standings; and their next three games, all ACC teams, will determine if the Wolfpack can to stay there. N.C. State (18-7, 7-3) begins a challenging gauntlet of three games in six days Thursday night at No. 5 Duke
NC State will play at Duke February 16, 2012 at 9:00pm. Television coverage in Raleigh is on CBS: WRAL channel 5.
The fourth-place Wolfpack enter one game behind three two-loss teams — the Blue Devils (21-4, 8-2), No. 8 North Carolina and No. 20 Florida State — and they play host to the Seminoles on Saturday, followed by the Tar Heels next Tuesday.
A win or two against them certainly would help N.C. State’s resume as it chases its first NCAA tournament bid in six years. Through Tuesday night’s games, the Wolfpack were at No. 50 in an unofficial replication of the RPI formula with a schedule-strength rating of 59.
“I think they’re an NCAA team and will be tough down the stretch,” Duke coach Mike Krzyzewski said.
N.C. State put itself in the tournament conversation by beating the teams it should beat. The Wolfpack’s current three-game winning streak came against Boston College, Wake Forest and Georgia Tech, the three teams at the bottom of the standings, and five of their eight ACC wins have come against those schools.
After the current three-game run against the league leaders comes another three-game stretch of toss-up games against Clemson, Miami and Virginia Tech to end the regular season.
NC State basketball coach Mark Gottfried says:
“There’s not a walk in the park left on the schedule. We know it,” he said. “And so what we can’t do is try to group three together. We truly have to be mature enough … to zero in on this Duke game. Then it’s a quick — we have 24 hours and we’d better get ourselves ready to play Florida State. Then after that, but I don’t think you can get ahead of yourself and, ‘Oh, what happens in these three?'”
N.C. State hasn’t won at Cameron Indoor Stadium since 1995, losing its last 10 trips to that corner of North Carolina’s “Triangle,” and has only beaten the Blue Devils five times since that season. Beating Duke on its home court could go a long way toward ending another one,the Wolfpack haven’t made the NCAA tournament since 2006, with former player Sidney Lowe failing to take them there in five seasons at the helm.
Still, Gottfried insists it’s way too soon to worry about making the field of 68, emphasizing his point with several familiar coaching mantras.
“There are so many variables out there that you can’t control them all,” he said. “But one thing we can control is, let’s try to be the best team we can be. One at a time. That’s all we can control.”
© 2012 Amy Bittinger Kunkle, All rights reserved. No part of this article may be reproduced without prior permissions from the author or Clarity Digital Group LLC d/b/a modenook.com
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