NC State saved its top 25 ranking by winning a tough road game at Notre Dame. The Irish fell to 1-4 in conference play, losing their 7th game of the year, but that doesn’t mean they will be an easy win for any road team. The Wolfpack needed to bring every ounce of intensity to go get that ice cream.
The Pack fell 4 spots to #21 in the Week 12 AP poll. Splitting their games in each of the last two weeks has had the team see their ranking slide from #15 a few weeks ago. They are keeping pace with the rest of the ACC, now sitting at 3-2 and one game back of first place. One now hopes that the lessons of the Notre Dame win are taken to heart and absorbed moving forward.
Following the crushing loss to Wake Forest, the jif master no23sports summed it up best:
This was like when your kids do something completely opposite of what you taught them to do. I wasn’t mad, I was just disappointed (holy shit, I am turning into my parents). Kevin Keatts clearly felt the same way. He turned to throwing a little bit of shade in the media:
“Some individual guys at times took some shots once we got back in the game that hurt us...When we got back in the game, we shared the basketball. We had some guys make some shots. We fed off each other. Once we tied it up, I thought a couple of guys played hero basketball.” Devon Daniels in particular looks good at times, then other times he goes one on five with a circus shot and makes you go:
Keatts also criticized the lack of leadership on the floor in the Wake game. Did his perception of leadership lead to veteran Torin Dorn being pulled out of the starting lineup, and being conspicuously missing during crunch time? Maybe. It may have been injury related, but I haven’t been able to find a definitive answer on that. If Keatts was trying to send a message, it had the intended result across the board, as Dorn did not look hampered when was in the game. Kevin Keatts is not playing around. You don’t go 100%, you will not play, let alone start. The two leaders on this team, Dorn and Markell Johnson, have now been pulled out of the starting lineups in different games. They might as well have ordered a milkshake, he can’t deal wit’chu.
Keatts is pulling this team and program into a winning culture. This process takes time, and there will be two steps forward and one step back at times, or one step forward and three steps back. But the overall trend is up. Winning league games on the road doesn’t just happen by accident to the elite teams. They are grinding everyday to then get to the point where they can make it almost look easy.
This was the first league game where the Wolfpack came out on all cylinders from the opening tip. In the four previous ACC games, they had to dig themselves out of holes to contend the game. Not so in South Bend. If this team expects to compete for that elusive double bye in the ACC tournament, the grind starts right now.
There are currently six teams tied for first place in the ACC. NC State plays all six in the next eight games (and five are ranked in the top 23, with Syracuse getting votes). This includes four of the toughest road games of the year: @ Louisville, UNC, Pitt and Duke. With or without the injured Markell Johnson, the show goes on. Ask FSU if you can take nights off in the ACC. They were 11th in the nation last week, then a quick three game losing streak dropped them out of the top 25 completely and tied for last in the league.
The warmup period is done, the real game now starts. Go get ‘em, Pack.