As much as NC State’s loss to UNC on Tuesday night sucked, as much as it was among the most terrible things to happen in NC State basketball this week—many would say the very most terrible—it didn’t really alter the Wolfpack’s NCAA tournament picture.
A game like that is so demoralizing we get to feeling like the season may as well be over, but it’s not like that loss sent NC State plummeting from “Last Four In” to a nether region three tiers lower. State was already working with a slim margin and it did get slimmer still, but the path to an at-large bid isn’t suddenly a terrible long-shot.
The Pack’s win over Duke is going to carry a lot of weight and NC State maintains a solid 5-4 record in Quad 1 games, which includes three road wins. One of those road wins came against a sure at-large team (Virginia), and another was a decisive home victory over another likely tournament squad (Wisconsin).
NC State has a lot going for it, especially considering that the non-conference strength of schedule (72) will be a non-issue this year. And State could add another Quad 1 win to its tally depending on how Notre Dame finishes the season. The Irish need to crack the NET top 50 to reach Quad 1 status—they are ranked 56th as of Wednesday morning.
NC State must take care of business against Pitt and Wake Forest at home, and from there maybe all it takes is one ACC tournament win to help us feel good about being in the field. (I’m counting out the Duke game here, but obviously a win in Durham would shift the calculus dramatically in a good way.)
That’s a doable finish for this team; I feel better after going over all this, actually. Let’s just get these last two home games and go from there.