Almost one year ago, NC State had no basketball coach and no hope of being a contender in the ACC and the NCAA. They live in their blue neighbors’ shadows during basketball season, but this year, with the help of new head coach Mark Gottfried, the Pack are coming back.
Last week, on Sunday, March 18, eleven-seeded NCSU defeated third-seeded Georgetown 66-63, earning a spot in the NCAA’s Sweet Sixteen. With Scott Wood and C.J. Williams basketing 14 points each, including Woods’ four spectacular three-pointers, Hollis Thompson scoring 17 points and Richard Howell collecting ten rebounds, the Pack played a strong, consistent and successful game, keeping the pressure on the Hoyas, leading to the win.
“I’m excited to see what they’ll do in the Sweet 16. But if they don’t win, it’s still awesome. It’s the closest the Pack has been to the Sweet 16 in a long time,” said Dan Pollard, sophomore.
“It [sweet 16 spot] is important and brings recognition to State. They’re always put behind Duke and UNC, but now it’s their time to show what they’ve got,” said Dustin Cable, freshman.
Gottfried took the young team from a 15-16 record last year to a team who has a running chance in the Sweet 16. He’s also the first coach to take the team to the Sweet 16 since 2005 and only the second since 1989.
“It’s a great win for our program,” Gottfried said in an interview with the News & Observer. “But, you know, really you just look at this group of guys, to me what stands out is how they’ve gotten better and they’re continuing to get better.”
Throughout the season, State played around with (and could’ve beat) their typically elite, big brother teams Duke and UNC. In the tournament, though, the Pack has proved themselves by playing strong and consistent — something they didn’t have in the games versus Duke, UNC and other elite teams.
The tournament will be tough for the Pack for they have to play more intricate and more well-developed teams than the teams they’ve succeeded over so far in the tournament. It will be a big step for NSCU if they upset number two Kansas [their next opponent]. The farther they go and the more teams they upset, the popularity will grow for the Pack.
As Lorenzo Brown said as he walked arm-in-arm off the court with Gottfried: “You never know what to expect in this tournament.”