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NC State Basketball

MCLAMB: NC State Is Risen, The Pack Is Alive

March 31, 2024
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NC State versus Texas. NC State versus Duke.

Two games, one day.

A men’s basketball program emerging from the wilderness and a women’s basketball program resuming its ascension after a sabbatical last season. 

This is the day many NC State followers have prayed for.

Kevin Keatts, a man who coached prep basketball for several years, will likely one day look back at the 2023-24 Wolfpack as one of his better off-season team assemblies. Seven players receive significant minutes for the Wolfpack and all transferred into the program from elsewhere – including five players who made their respective debuts with NC State this season. The Pack is as far as it has been in the NCAA Tournament since 1986, and has accomplished its run despite losing its two best scorers from last season’s team. 

The common theme with NC State is that it is playing with ‘house money’ and it is easy to understand that sentiment.

It is also wrong.

NC State is playing with money it has earned. The Wolfpack was the best team in Washington, DC, and Pittsburgh. It is one game away from getting to Phoenix by being the best team in Dallas – and by consequence, that would make them the best team in the Triangle. 

There are many ironies and links to the past, including the Wolfpack finally meeting Duke in the NCAA Tournament. The near-misses of a potential 1986 Final Four semifinal battle (which ironically would have also been in Dallas) and an Elite 8 matchup 35 years ago, – back when Jim Valvano’s teams consistently beat the Blue Devils – will be remembered by older NC State fans on Sunday. 

Raleigh and Durham share an airport. Its two ACC schools will share the national stage with a last spot in the Final Four on the line. Someone will have to land at RDU on Monday and go home. 

Wes Moore has now guided a program that previously had only one Elite 8 appearance in its history to its second regional final in three seasons. The pain of narrowly missing out on ACC regular season and tournament titles has been shrugged off, or at least set to the side as the Wolfpack has navigated its way back to where it was nationally before last season’s slippage.

The last-second loss at Virginia Tech and the ACC Tournament Final defeat to Notre Dame – both games marred by late offensive slumps from the Wolfpack – has impacted the view of NC State on the national scene.

When pundits discuss the Pack, it has been to include them as an afterthought. NCSU, the team with the most wins against ranked opposition in the nation, is someone who has been in the way of others as they make their imperial marches through the postseason competition. Yet here the Wolfpack is, back in the Elite 8 and playing Moore’s home state Texas Longhorns for the right to advance to the program’s second Final Four.

The ‘almost-season’ of returning to previous standards is on the cusp of becoming a season of reaching new heights. 

The television and NCAA overlords have graciously deemed NC State’s basketball teams worthy of different start times on Sunday, which grants NCSU followers the chance to watch both regional finals. In that regard, Wolfpack Nation accepts its porridge and is grateful.

This is a day brought to North Carolina State University by the Wolfpack basketball teams. It is given to the NC State fans who prayed so long for meaningful, tense basketball games in March that had maximum value. This is what being elite feels like. 

It may extend to next week. It may end on Sunday. There will be sadness if it does end, but Wolfpack fans should not let it overwhelm the gladness of seeing their favorite team leave the abyss.

Moses needed 40 years to find his way out of the desert. NC State’s men’s basketball program pulled off an ACC Tournament title and Elite 8 appearance with a few years to spare. 

NC State is risen. The Pack is alive. 

 
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