Abdul-Malik Abu has left his imprint on this NCAA Tournament. If you listened even remotely closely to the announcers as NC State escaped LSU and outplayed Villanova, you could hear Steve Smith marvel at Abu's energy.
With each dunk, Abu exclaims in excitement. On defensive possessions, he often claps his massive hands together. Here's a clear result of March: Abu has morphed into a winning combination of talent and tenacity.
What Montrezl Harrell currently represents for Louisville, Abu will someday embody for NC State. Harrell's freshman numbers were 5.7 points, 3.6 rebounds per game. Abu has totaled 6.4 points and 4.7 rebounds per contest. He's shined with 26 points and 16 rebounds in the last two games combined. Neither player usually has plays called for them. Each mostly scores on dunks, put-backs and broken sequences.
I remember Harrell stuffing jams and sacrificing his body during Louisville's 2013 National Championship run. Abu's freshman crack at March hasn't been all that different. What Abu offers is infectious. It resonates with the entire team. Louisville players would likely share identical sentiments about Harrell.
Remember when Trevor Lacey drilled that first-half, buzzer-beating three against Nova? As Lacey stuck out his tongue in appreciation of his shot, Abu ran down the floor as if he nailed the jumper himself. This confidence, this swagger, has attached itself to everyone in a Wolfpack uniform.
Abu resembles the dream teammate, equally happy of his dunk or a teammate's jumper, so long as everyone is reaching toward the same outcome: March success. It's refreshing that such a standard has been set in Raleigh. Intensity has helped raised that standard.
Without Abu's energy, many brackets would have a noticeably less ugly East Region. LSU or Villanova might still be playing. Sure, Cat Barber and countless other NC State players have had a say in this Sweet Sixteen run, but don't overlook Abu's impact.
After all, his say is more of a scream. And it's typically accompanied by clapping. Just listen for it after Abu's first dunk against Louisville.