Commentary

DeCock: NC State has much to win – or lose – at ACC tournament

ldecock@newsobserver.comMarch 13, 2013 

NC State, ACC, Greensboro

N.C. State's Lorenzo Brown (2) signs a shirt for Pat Grose of Greensboro after the Wolfpack's open practice Wednesday, March 13, 2013, at the Greensboro Coliseum. The Wolfpack will face Virginia Tech Thursday in the first round of the ACC Men's Basketball Tournament.

ETHAN HYMAN — ehyman@newsobserver.com Buy Photo

— Lorenzo Brown admitted, as he watched Sunday’s Maryland-Virginia game, he was rooting hard for the Terrapins. The N.C. State guard had no interest in playing Thursday at the ACC tournament, even if his own team had missed out on a chance to take care of business at Florida State on Saturday.

A Maryland win would have done it as well, as Brown well knew.

The Terrapins blew a late eight-point lead, Virginia won in overtime to claim the No. 4 seed and N.C. State was practicing at the Greensboro Coliseum on Wednesday before Thursday’s game against Virginia Tech.

“I was hoping Maryland would have gotten that win,” Brown said. “We’re here. There’s nothing we can do about it now.”

To a greater extent than all the other teams playing Thursday, the Wolfpack has something on the line – more than anyone else in the tournament, perhaps. Way more to gain. Way more to lose.

The hopes and dreams of an entire season rest in these four – four, if all goes well – games. The regular season did not go as planned for N.C. State. Not by a long shot.

“If you asked anybody in that locker room, they’d be lying to you if they didn’t expect to win the conference,” N.C. State forward Scott Wood said. “We’ve got some things to prove. We’d like to go home with a ring, whether it’s the regular-season title or the tournament title. We’re going to go out there and play hard. At the end of the day, hopefully we’ll have success.”

Compared to everyone else, the Wolfpack has far more at stake. Miami already has a banner to hang. Duke always takes the tournament with the utmost sincerity, but is almost certainly headed to Philadelphia as a No. 1 or No. 2 seed. A tournament win would offer some legitimacy for North Carolina, but Roy Williams has always been more concerned about peaking in the NCAA tournament.

Virginia, unlike N.C. State and like the rest of the ACC, needs to play its way into the NCAA tournament, but never faced the expectations the Wolfpack faced from the beginning of the season. So far, N.C. State has done little to live up to them, which is why the Wolfpack was even in the building Wednesday, but that could change in a matter of hours this week.

That door swings both ways. While justification for its entire season is out there for the taking, an early exit would be yet another disappointment, yet another hurdle at which N.C. State fell short, yet another example of how the Wolfpack failed to recapture the magic that launched it not only into the NCAA tournament last spring but all the way to the Sweet 16.

It’s all out there for the taking, good and bad alike.

The Wolfpack may have missed its chances during the season, in Puerto Rico, at Michigan, at Maryland and Wake Forest and Florida State. That can all be wiped away, erased with four wins and a championship.

“Everything we did before this doesn’t matter at all,” N.C. State forward C.J. Leslie said. “It’s like a brand-new start.”

Everything can be forgotten. Everything can be forgiven. Anything is possible.

DeCock: ldecock@newsobserver.com, @LukeDeCock, (919) 829-8947

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