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Let’s Bury a Ridiculous Misconception, Shall We?

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This is quite the exhausting narrative

NCAA Basketball: North Carolina at North Carolina State Rob Kinnan-USA TODAY Sports

NC State has fired head coach Mark Gottfried. The firing came as the Pack bottomed out towards the end of a disastrous season that will go down as one of the most disappointing in program history. Despite how it ended, the Gottfried tenure saw State get back to relevance with recruiting success and a few notable tournament runs. Via that recruiting success, the Pack has a solid roster of young players. Combine this with strong fan support that is impressively consistent despite mediocre play, and you’ve a got a decent situation to walk into for whomever the new coach will be.

NC State is not a bad job right now and truthfully it never really has been. Sure it’s not an elite program like the two up the road, but the level of success over the last 25 years is not indicative of the ceiling of the program. So why can’t State win?

Obviously it’s because it’s hard to win big when you’re playing in the shadow of two elite blue blood super programs, right? Right? This is the narrative that gets floated pretty much any time people ask the question at the end of the previous paragraph. This is a huge heap of silliness and is a lazy analysis of NC State’s recent struggles. Let’s put this to bed.

Duke and Chapel Hill make up three or four games of a 30+ plus game schedule every season. This isn’t the Atlantic Division football argument. Everybody in the conference plays these two at least once each and there are plenty of other elite programs in the ACC. Nobody should ever take an ACC job if the basis for this misguided belief is “playing these teams is hard.”

There must be recruiting disadvantages though, right? You’d expect two elite programs to eat up all the local talent and force the two middle of the road programs into playing with table scraps. That makes sense on the surface, but this is not the case on Tobacco Road, and a little bit of research into recruiting makes this easy to see.

Over the last five years State’s recruiting classes have had an average finish (according to 247sports.com) of 20.8. This is actually higher than UNC’s average finish of 22.8 and reasonably close to Duke’s 9.8 over the same time period. Gottfried has proven talent acquisition is a total non-issue in Raleigh. So did Sidney Lowe. The Pack beat their rivals out west head to head on multiple occasions, and secured commits from national recruits when they couldn’t. In addition to elite local talent like Dennis Smith, T.J. Warren, and Rodney Purvis, the Pack has recently pulled in top 100 recruits from Minnesota, New England, and Florida.

That’s it. That is literally it. Local recruiting is the only real reason I can find for why close proximity to elite programs makes it hard to win, and the numbers and numerous examples prove there is not a material disadvantage here. I’m not denying that NC State is viewed by the nation of college basketball fans as “in the shadow of Duke and UNC.” I’m saying that it doesn’t matter. If there is no discernable disadvantage that comes from this perception, then who cares? And the facts back up that there is not.

NC State cannot succeed because it is in its own way, not because Duke and UNC are in its way. State keeps having to fire coaches because the administration hires insufficient coaches, not because good coaches cannot win here. Sidney Lowe is an NC State legend and nothing about his coaching tenure will ever change that. He was not a good hire though. Everybody knew the limitations of Mark Gottfried and in a shocking twist, those limitations ended up being the downfall.

This narrative about Duke and UNC is backed up by nothing. It is a lazy skin deep analysis and I’m tired of hearing it. It’s bogus and only takes the slightest amount of research and thought to see that the blue bloods are not what is holding back NC State. The right hire this time around should help leave this nonsense in the past where it belongs.