Sidney Lowe, the former coach of the North Carolina State men’s basketball team was shown the door for not winning enough with the talent he was able to recruit. New coach Mark Gottfried, with a roster not completely devoid of talent, had the Wolfpack tied for first in the conference standings through five games, with the possibility of making the tournament if they can keep up the good play. Last week was a big week for the Wolfpack, with games against North Carolina and Virginia-games that if they could win one or both, would be additional proof that the team could hang around in the conference for the long haul.
Unfortunately, the Tar Heels were the Tar Heels-meaning the team that was thought to be a national contender. They ran the Wolfpack out of the Smith Center 74-55. In the home game against Virginia, the Wolfpack didn’t shoot the ball well, but battled all game long before falling short by a point. While the two losses don’t doom the Wolfpack’s chances at the NCAA tournament, nor by themselves prove they can’t play with the big boys, they represented missed opportunities. Now they face of week of winnable games against Boston College and Wake Forest, which can help rebuild their confidence, if not necessarily enhance their tournament profile.
The Wolfpack’s place among the leaders in the conference was taken by the Tar Heels, who did what they were supposed to do in dispatching N.C. State and Georgia Tech by double figure margins. Last night’s 68-53 win at Wake sends the Heels to Maryland, where the Terrapins are in need of a big win to improve their profile. The loss of Dexter Strickland will affect the team’s perimeter shooting and defense, and may be troublesome going forward, but their front line is still imposing and their offense can still overwhelm most opponents.
Elsewhere, Miami evened up its conference record by beating up on Georgia Tech and Boston College. The Hurricanes have won three of their last four, with big games this week against Maryland tonight and Duke on Sunday. The Blue Devils overcame the Terrapins and St. John’s last week, with Mason Plumlee having the best week of his ACC career so far. Following it’s loss to Virginia Tech, the Virginia Cavaliers also fashioned a 2-0 week, beating Boston College in addition to the win over the Wolfpack.
Looking ahead, it is a big week for the Terrapins. The Miami and North Carolina games give the Terps opportunities for some solid, resume-building wins. Whether or not they are capable of getting one or both of them will depend on what kind of effort they give on both ends of the floor. Saturday’s matchup between Virginia and Florida State pit the conference’s best defensive teams against each other-despite Florida State’s recent improvement on offense, points will be hard to come by on both sides. The Seminoles will look keep up their improved play, while Virginia has been a surprise, hanging around the top of the standings all season long.