There are four teams in front of N.C. State in the ACC standings with four games left in the regular season. Thats one too many if the Wolfpack wants to avoid playing on Thursday in the ACC tournament next month in Greensboro.
N.C. State (19-8, 8-6 ACC) takes the final turn down the homestretch of the conference schedule in need of wins, starting with tonights home game with Boston College, and help from other teams.
"We NEED these last 4 games," N.C. State freshman guard Rodney Purvis posted on his Twitter account on Tuesday. "No other way around it."
State probably needs to sweep its final four games Boston College, at Georgia Tech, Wake Forest and at Florida State to give itself the best chance to earn a bye into Fridays quarterfinals of the ACC tournament.
No team has won four games in four days at the ACC tournament and with the Wolfpacks lack of depth, its best shot at its first ACC title of any kind since 1989 would be to avoid having to play on Thursday.
The Wolfpack cant catch first-place Miami (13-1 in the ACC) and last Saturdays loss at North Carolina eliminated them from the regular-season title picture. The Pack will also be hard-pressed to close the gap with second-place Duke (11-3), with three games to make up and only four to play, but State still has a shot to finish in front of either UNC (9-5) or Virginia (9-5) or both.
Duke will play a key role in which teams end up finishing in the top four. N.C. States 84-76 win over the Blue Devils on Jan. 12 stands as the Wolfpacks "best" win in terms of a potential ACC tiebreaker.
Both Virginia and UNC have to play Duke and both get the Blue Devils at home. Virginia and UNC also both have to play Maryland, which is 7-7 and trying to play its way into the NCAA tournament, and the Terps can still get one of the top four seeds for the ACC tournament. UNC goes to Maryland on March 6 and the Cavaliers host Maryland on March 10.
N.C. State coach Mark Gottfried has said all season he wants his team to play its best in February and March. The Wolfpack, 3-3 this month, is running out of time to find its stride.
It wasnt until there were two games left in the ACC last season when the Pack started to put together its best stretch of basketball. State beat Miami and Virginia Tech before the ACC tournament last season, then two games in Atlanta and another two in the NCAA tournament.
N.C. State is 4-0 against Boston College (12-15, 4-10) under Gottfried, which should help with their confidence tonight against the Eagles, whom they beat 78-73 in the conference opener on Jan. 5.
The Pack did win three straight games before the UNC loss. Gottfried said after the UNC game, hes still encouraged by the way his team has played recently.
"I like how our team is playing, I like the fact that we are competing," Gottfried said. "We are playing better. Weve just got to go back to work."