In the official press release announcing the matchups in the annual ACC/Big Tenish Challenge, N.C. State coach Mark Gottfried said that the Pack "are very excited to play in the challenge." Noticeably absent was any enthusiasm over the Pack's opponent: Northwestern.
The challenge typically tries to pit relatively equal teams against each other, so it is a slap in the face that ESPN apparently thinks N.C. State is about the 11th best team in the ACC. The Wildcats were 11th in the Big Tenish last season, saved from the cellar only by the marginal existence of Penn State. True, the Wildcats rid themselves of Bill Carmody and replaced him with K disciple Chris Collins, but even K would have a tough time molding this Northwestern squad into anything resembling a quality opponent.
The Wildcats lose three seniors and a grad student that accounted for 47.8% of their scoring a year ago and replace that foursome with exactly one recruit, Nate Traphorn. The scrawny savior-apparent for Northwestern spurned such perennial championship contenders as Bradley and Drake to run with the Cats.
Northwestern went 13-19 last year (4-14 in conference play) and finished 163rd in the RPI. Adding to the lack of sexy in the matchup is that the game will be a home contest for N.C. State. There is just no way this one helps the Pack's RPI and NCAA tournament résumé.
Of course the blues get the sexy matchups; Duke plays Michigan and UNC faces Michigan State. Newcomer Syracuse will square off against Indiana. In some sort of sick and twisted joke aimed at your eyeballs, Wisconsin will face Virginia. Gopack.com has the complete lineup.