Gottfried sees value in non-conference games

jgiglio@newsobserver.comDecember 22, 2012 

You never know which nonconference win will pad your NCAA tournament resume.

That’s a lesson coach Mark Gottfried learned long before he got to N.C. State, and one he hammered home to the Wolfpack players last season. The Pack’s November win over Texas last year certainly helped on Selection Sunday, but so did a December win over St. Bonaventure.

Coming off an important home win over a major conference opponent, Stanford of the Pac-12, Gottfried is stressing the importance of today’s home game with St. Bonaventure (3 p.m.), which went on to win the Atlantic-10 title last season and finish in the top 75 of the RPI.

Without a last-second win over the Bonnies in Rochester, N.Y., the Wolfpack likely would have never made the NCAA tournament, much less the Sweet 16.

“I’m not a guy that just likes to schedule 10 straight Humpty Dumpties,” Gottfried said Tuesday after the Wolfpack’s 88-79 win over Stanford. “We just don’t do it. We try to play good teams.”

The Bonnies (7-3) qualify as the latter, even with forward Andrew Nicholson in the NBA. St. Bonaventure won its last two games by a combined 74 points. The Bonnies beat Cleveland State by 34 points on Dec. 15. N.C. State beat Cleveland State by 17, a week earlier.

At No. 123 in the RPI, according Jerry Palm of CBS Sports, they have the potential to finish in the top 100. N.C. State began the week at No. 9 in the RPI with top-100 wins over Connecticut (25), Massachusetts (38) and Stanford (99).

The Pack (8-2) faces the Bonnies today and Western Michigan (77) next Saturday before closing its nonconference schedule against UNC-Greensboro (341).

Gottfried reworked the Pack’s nonconference schedule last season in order to boost its tournament profile. State’s strength of schedule outside of the ACC, ranked No. 23, helped it land one of the final at-large bids last March.

Losses to Oklahoma State and Michigan have knocked N.C. State down to No. 25 in the human polls, but the RPI, a computer-generated number based on the record of your opponents and your opponents’ opponents, still has the Pack in the top 10.

State’s strength of schedule this season is No. 7 behind only Duke (3) in the ACC. Brand-name wins over Ohio State (37) and Kentucky (59) have helped boost Duke in the human polls, but wins over VCU (23) and Florida Gulf Coast (41) might be more valuable come tournament time.

There might have been more fan interest in North Carolina’s trip to Texas but the opponent the Tar Heels will face today, McNeese State, is ranked No. 47 in the RPI — eight spots ahead of UNC and 67 ahead of the Longhorns.

“We all look at those games as the marquee games but I don’t want to get into all that,” Gottfried said when asked about wins over Stanford and UConn. “You’ve just got to win them all.”

Giglio: 919-829-8938

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