Thanks to some... less than preferred outcomes... NC State finds itself up the proverbial creek entering the final weekend of conference play. For the first time since 2014, the Wolfpack enter the regular season culmination without a secured spot in the ACC Tournament.
Thankfully, NC State still controls their own destiny in that regard since Florida State has been mathematically eliminated from the conference tourney and the Pack are going head-to-head against a team with which they are battling to make the tourney field. Win the series against Pittsburgh and NC State doesn’t have to worry..
There are a couple other playouts where NC State could back their way into next week’s tournament bracket in Durham. Here are all the scenarios in which NC State makes the ACC Tournament field:
- Win series against Pittsburgh this weekend, no matter how many games are played or what happens elsewhere
- Get swept by Pittsburgh; FSU sweeps Louisville
- Win one game against Pittsburgh and Florida State wins one game versus Louisville
- Win one game against Pittsburgh and Virginia Tech gets swept by Wake Forest
Foolishly looking past the ACC Tournament towards an NCAA Regional appearance, and the clearest path is, obviously, NC State getting into and then winning the ACC Tournament. Automatic bids are nice like that.
Barring the Wolfpack breaking through that ACC Tournament title barrier for the first time since 1992, NC State will need to sweep Pittsburgh this weekend and then reach the conference tourney championship game for a third straight year. That would leave the Pack with an, at worst, record of 37-19 and an RPI hovering right around 20, if not better. The 13-16 ACC regular season record would be a drag, but pair that with a Top 20 RPI and a most recent 5-2 (or better) mark heading into Regional selections, and State will have a good chance.
For those remembering last year’s Wolfpack team that got left out of the NCAA dance despite a 14-15 ACC regular season record and a run to the ACC tourney title game, keep in mind that that Wolfpack team had an RPI of 32 after the ACC Tournament and just a 4-5 record over their final nine games, with that record inclusive of the ACC tourney title game run.
All the above is moot without NC State coming to play this weekend, so the only objective is the one right in front of them: Pittsburgh.
The Panthers are no pushovers. They have a powder keg lineup with the potential to blow up at any point, plenty capable of taking advantage of a Wolfpack pitching staff that was seriously suspect last weekend. Pitt also has enough quality pitching depth to not mix arms enough to keep State’s bats from getting in a groove. The Panthers might not be having the year they hoped, but their series win at #10 RPI Coastal Division leading Virginia is all the evidence you need to know how dangerous this team can be.
NC State is certainly not in the position entering this weekend that they had envisioned back when the season started, but they are still steering their own fortunes with the one paddle they have left. Handle business this weekend and salvage is still attainable. Don’t and that last shred of hope of getting back down the creek is forever gone.