Is N.C. State going dancing?

March 10, 2012

The NCAA Tournament picture sure looks a lot better for the Wolfpack than it did at this time yesterday.

Every projection I’ve seen this morning has N.C. State in the Tournament — barely. The consensus seems to be that, as things stand right now, the Pack would be one of the last four teams in and probably playing in the First Four in Dayton on Tuesday.

I’m almost scared to write this, but State feels like a Tournament team after winning against Virginia yesterday. While I recognize that RPI isn’t everything, the Pack now ranks 49th according to Live-RPI.com, three spots ahead of the team they just beat on a neutral floor and with a much better strength of schedule. The Cavaliers are projected as a solid 9 or 10 seed in the Big Dance. If they’re in, then surely State is, too, right?

Things have broken pretty well for State over the last few days, with other bubble teams falling left and right. I know there was some thought that the regular-season sweep over Miami would have looked even better if the Hurricanes hadn’t lost to Florida State last night. But I don’t think the slight boost to the Pack’s RPI was as valuable as watching a team in direct competition for an at-large spot lose.

Still, State’s fate at this point is very much in the hands of the Selection Committee. Despite 22 wins against a tough schedule, the Pack’s only victory against a current Top 50 RPI team* came in November against Texas (who ranks 48th).

Of course, a win against North Carolina today would make the rest of this post moot. And I’d like to think it would be Mark Gottfried’s way of continuing the recent tradition of first-year State coaches making dramatic runs to the ACC Tournament finals.

 

* Virginia (52) and Miami (59) both fell out of the Top 50 yesterday, according to Live-RPI.com.

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ACC expansion: Watered-down rivalries and random divisions

February 9, 2012

Remember all the great moments from the Wake Forest-N.C. State rivalry? Neither do we.

When the ACC raided the Big East a few years ago in a desperate attempt to become a football power, it ended one of the things that I used to love about the conference — every team played every other team once a year in football and twice in basketball.

I especially miss the double round-robin in basketball. The added familiarity with opponents better prepared ACC teams for March Madness, and it made conference rivalries stronger. If N.C. State lost its first game against one of the Big 4, I always knew there would be a rematch.

With the expansion to 12 teams, it was bad enough that N.C. State was no longer guaranteed to play Duke twice in basketball (or at all in football). With the conference growing to 14 in a year or two, it was inevitable that more rivals would play each other less frequently.

Under the new scheduling format announced last week, each basketball team gets one primary rival to play in a home-and-home every year. In N.C. State’s case, it’s Wake Forest. No offense to the Deacons, but the one home game that Wolfpackers care about above all others is against Carolina. Once every three years, the Tar Heels won’t have to come to Raleigh.

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The Best of the Worst of Duke-UNC

February 8, 2012

The days surrounding the first Duke-Carolina basketball game are always the strangest time of the sports year for me.

Before turning 18, I was a rabid Duke fan. So rabid I took a copy of The Kinston Free Press sports page to school on Feb. 4, 1993 and use it to taunt my Tar Heel fan friends. So rabid that, during my most recent move, I finally purged a Duke 1991/92 national championship hat with signatures from Bobby Hurley (!), Thomas Hill and Antonio Lang. So rabid that a Cherokee Parks jersey survived that purge and still hangs in my closet.

But I left all that behind when I went to college at NC State. Rather than support a college I didn’t attend, I discarded childish things (like triumphant fandom) in favor of more grownup fare (grimly low expectations). The old feelings still stirred occasionally, most notably during Duke’s 2001 national title run. But in 2010, I could barely rouse any feelings as Brian Zoubek wrecked charming Butler. The rare re-emergence of the old Duke feelings usually occurs around the first Heels-Devils matchup of the year.

Now, I’m part of the mass of sports fans with no real link to Duke-Carolina, THE GREATEST RIVALRY IN ALL OF SPORTS. While not actively hostile to the game or its surrounding hype, I do find it all a little tiresome. So, while the rest of the sporting world previews its brains out, we offer those on the outside looking into this rivalry a list of the Best Moments in Duke-UNC History For People Who Hate Duke and UNC.

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UNC — finally — fires Butch Davis

July 27, 2011

About a year after it should have been over, the Butch Davis era came to an end at North Carolina today.

From a news release on UNC’s website (with the understated headline “Carolina Football Makes Coaching Change”):

University of North Carolina Chancellor Holden Thorp announced this evening that Butch Davis has been dismissed as head coach of the Carolina football program. Davis was informed by Thorp and Director of Athletics Dick Baddour of the decision.

“To restore confidence in the University of North Carolina and our football program, it’s time to make a change,” Thorp said in the release. “What started as a purely athletic issue has begun to chip away at this University’s reputation. I have been deliberate in my approach to understanding this situation fully, and I have worked to be fair to everyone involved. However, I have lost confidence in our ability to come through this without harming the way people think of this institution. Our academic integrity is paramount and we must work diligently to protect it.”

Two thoughts immediately sprung to mind when I saw this:

1) As an N.C. State fan, I’m sad to see Davis go. I was really looking forward to watching Tom O’Brien make it five straight over him this year.

2) What took so long for this to happen?

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O’Cain returns to run Pack offense

May 31, 2011

Mike O’Cain is back with the Pack!

Well, sort of.

Via Owen Good, fellow N.C. State/Technician alum and Kotaku.com columnist, we learn that the Wolfpack’s offensive coordinator on EA Sports’ NCAA Football 12 is an homage to the former Pack coach. Good lays it all out in a post on the game’s new “Coaching Carousel” feature:

That leads us back to Owen O’Cain. When you pick up NCAA Football 12, that’s the name of N.C. State’s offensive coordinator. (Game producer Ben) Haumiller himself put that in as a nod to Mike O’Cain (pictured at top), who was State’s head coach when I was the sports editor of Technician, the student newspaper. You can see the name in that screengrab. (Evidently he was hired from within after a surprise departure, the way O’Cain himself was when Dick Sheridan abruptly stepped down in 1993.)

O’Cain’s sort-of appearance in the game is a reminder of how odd his tenure at State was. As Good notes, O’Cain’s teams included some excellent players (led by Torry Holt) and had some astounding wins (FSU in ’98, Syracuse in ’97 and ’98, Texas in ’99). He also sandwiched the FSU and Syracuse ’98 wins around a horrific loss to Baylor and failed to beat North Carolina in seven tries, speeding him toward a cold-blooded, Thanksgiving-morning firing in 1999. Few were sorry to see him go, but O’Cain did oversee some of the program’s greatest victories.

O’Cain is now the OC at Virginia Tech.


The Classic 68 Tournament

March 13, 2011

Just in case you need some help getting in the mood for March Madness, NCAA.com is running the “Classic 68” bracket to determine the greatest game in NCAA Tournament history. The bracket matches up memorable games from Tournaments past and lets fans pick the winners until a champion is crowned.

Even if you don’t want to vote, this is definitely worth checking out because the NCAA has posted complete videos of nearly every game in the bracket. So if you’re an N.C. State fan who wants to relive some past glory, you can watch Jimmy V run around the court looking for someone to hug after the 1983 title game upset over Houston. Or if you’d just rather experience a little schadenfreude, there are a couple of gems from 1999 available: Carolina’s first-round loss to Weber State and Harold “The Show” Arceneaux and the Connecticut-Duke title game, which ended with Trajan Langdon dribbling the ball off his foot.

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Sid Sendek? Herb Lowe? A Pro-and-Pro Discussion

March 9, 2011

Here’s the latest in a series of what are turning out to be the editors’ totally agreeable exchanges on the issues of the day. Today, we take you all the way back to March 2001. Crazy Town, Shaggy and a young lady named J-Lo were topping the charts. The Russian space station Mir went kaput.

And in Raleigh, North Carolina, the administration of N.C. State University was in an eerily similar position to the one it now occupies

Jeremy: Jimmy, it seems like an article of faith these days that Sidney Lowe is done as the head basketball coach at our alma mater as soon as the Wolfpack’s increasingly disappointing season is over. The calls for Lowe’s ouster take me back a decade to when we were spending late nights on the third floor of Witherspoon Student Center putting a newspaper together and State fans were calling for another fifth-year head coach to be shown the door.

The comparison between Lowe and Herb Sendek has been done plenty of times before. Still, the parallels between Sendek’s first five years and Lowe’s first five are just begging for the IoT treatment, starting with these little charts that I assembled below: Read the rest of this entry »