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Moving on up - NC State rises to #18 in final AP Poll of 2018 (and other thoughts)

Pack in good position as it prepares for ACC play

HoopHall Miami Invitational Photo by Michael Reaves/Getty Images

NC State rose two spots to #18 in the final AP poll of 2018. The week 9 poll had five other ACC teams ranked: Duke (1, no change), UVA (4, no change), FSU (9, no change), VT (10, no change), UNC (15, down 1).

There wasn’t much movement across the board in the poll. Wisconsin suffered their third loss and dropped seven spots because of it. UNC lost their third and dropped one. This all makes sense. All I know is NC State hasn’t been ranked this high since 2013

The Wolfpack have been rewarded with performing well against a not great schedule, to be fair. The true test starts after the new year. The road test on January 3rd against Miami should be treated as a must-win. The Canes have suffered losses to two Ivy league teams AND Rutgers. Losing to them right before facing UNC would be a gut punch. A win would put the Pack likely in top 15 territory, creating a great early season ACC matchup.

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On a side, note, should we be worried about Markell Johnson? In his postgame remarks after Loyola, Kevin Keatts was very plain spoken about his perceived lack of energy from MJ.

“Markell was low energy. So when you’re low energy, you don’t play for me. So he didn’t play today because I thought his energy was very low and I have too many guys that work extremely hard.

I love him. He’s a heck of a player, and he’s going to be very good. I’m not mad at him. For me, I’m in my second year, it’s not about the guy that scores the most points, but the guy who plays the hardest. I wanted more energy from him, especially on the defensive end.”

If anyone can get Johnson to round back into form, it’s Keatts. Giving him the benefit of the doubt, one would assume it’s because of the dip in competition. Hard to keep the hype up against teams you’re blowing out. But we don’t want a team leader that only brings the energy against the top opponents. I’d put my worry level at a 4 out of 10. One good game against Miami and it’ll go back down.

That being said I love that even the leaders of the team are not immune to the expectations of the coach. We’ve seen past coaches play the top players out of necessity, even when they were going through the motions. KK is not past coaches.

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Back to the polls: The interesting thing to watch will be the variation in voter ranking. Some AP voters have the Pack near the bottom of the top 25, others have them near-ish the top 10, and some did not rank them at all. National perception can only be changed by winning. We have just the man for the job. I haven’t been this excited for ACC play to start in quite a while. January provides several winnable road opportunities for ice cream, letting the team settle into the intensity of the ACC before facing the top half of the league.

Happy New Year, Go Pack.