ACC

The ACC schedule eases up for NC State. Can the Wolfpack take advantage?

NC State’s Keatts: ‘We got to get a little tougher because we are not the biggest team’

NC State coach Kevin Keatts talks about the Wolfpack's loss to the Duke Blue Devils at Cameron Indoor Stadium in Durham, N.C., Saturday, Feb. 16, 2019
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NC State coach Kevin Keatts talks about the Wolfpack's loss to the Duke Blue Devils at Cameron Indoor Stadium in Durham, N.C., Saturday, Feb. 16, 2019

The most difficult stretch of the schedule is behind N.C. State.

Now the Wolfpack gets to pad its NCAA tournament resume, or in the least not do any damage to it. N.C. State (18-8, 6-7 ACC), No. 34 in the NET rankings, will close the regular season with four games against teams at the bottom of the ACC standings and a trip to Florida State sandwiched in between.

Wednesday’s home game (7 p.m., Fox Sports Carolinas) with Boston College (13-11, 4-8) starts a more manageable stretch for the Wolfpack and coach Kevin Keatts. Not that Keatts will look at anything other than the next game. The second-year coach admitted he already did that once this season.

“I made a mistake and looked at our schedule and it scared the heck out of me,” Keatts said. “And we lost those games, too. I think I jinxed them because I looked at the schedule.”

The Wolfpack just finished a six-game stretch where it played five teams from the top 50 of the NET, including four in the top 15. It went 1-4 in those games. That stretch included home losses to Virginia (No. 3 in the NET) and Virginia Tech (14) and road losses to UNC (9) and Duke (1). The Wolfpack did beat Syracuse (48) at home on Feb. 13.

The NCAA tournament selection committee uses quadrants to compare wins and losses on a team’s resume. “Quadrant 1” is the most difficult and is broken down to home games against teams ranked No. 1 through 30 in the NET, neutral site games (No. 1 through 50) and road games (No. 1 through 75). N.C. State’s only Q1 win was at home against Auburn (21). The trip to Florida State (22) on March 2 is the only Q1 game left on the Wolfpack’s schedule.

Quadrant 2 is broken down to home games against teams ranked No. 31 through 75 in the NET, neutral site games (No. 51 through 100) and road games (No. 76 through 135). N.C. State 6-0 in Q2 games.

On paper, N.C. State should be able to rack up a few wins with two games against Boston College, a home game with Wake Forest (9-15) and a home game with Georgia Tech (11-15).

But nothing ever comes easy for N.C. State when it comes to Boston College, in any sport. The Wolfpack has lost three of its past five meetings with the Eagles, including a disappointing 91-87 loss in the ACC tournament last March.

Guard Ky Bowman (19.5 points per game), in particular, relishes the opportunity to face the Wolfpack. The junior from Havelock was overlooked during the recruiting process by in-state teams and has had a knack for delivering big games against State, Duke, UNC and Wake Forest.

There is no such thing as a given when it comes to Wake Forest, either. The Demon Deacons are in a tailspin, losers of 7 of 8, but have a 71-67 home win over the Wolfpack on Jan. 15 to hang their hat on. Sunday’s game with the Deacs is actually a Q4 game.

Georgia Tech is on a seven-game losing streak but wasn’t much better last March (4-12 in the ACC) when it found a way to beat N.C. State in Atlanta.

Keatts said there is no value in looking past the next game.

“If you allow yourself to look ahead, or you allow your team to look ahead in this league, it’s not going to be good for you,” Keatts said.

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Joe Giglio covers N.C. State and has worked at The N&O since 1995. He has regularly reported on the ACC since 2005.


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