N.C. State returns to Reynolds Coliseum on Saturday for the first time in two years and referee Karl Hess is guaranteed not to be there.
Wofford won’t be, either, but Tennessee State shares some of the same qualities as the Wofford team that beat the Wolfpack at Reynolds in December 2014.
N.C. State (6-2) is hoping to avoid the drama, and result, from its most recent game at the historic gym, which underwent a $35 million renovation.
Wofford beat the Wolfpack, 55-54, after a last-second shot by N.C. State guard Trevor Lacey was originally counted but then was overturned on replay.
It was the last time Hess, who called a technical foul on N.C. State coach Mark Gottfried 4 minutes and 2 seconds into the game, worked an N.C. State game. Not long after, Hess was exiled from working ACC games after a run-in with a Wake Forest fan.
Tennessee State (7-1) does remind Gottfried of that Wofford team, which finished the season with a 28-7 record and won the Southern Conference and played in the NCAA tournament.
“They’re going to come in here with the attitude that they feel like they can beat us,” Gottfried said of Tennessee State. “We better make sure we’re ready to play.”
Wofford finished the 2014-15 season in the top 50 in the RPI (48) and relied on a pair of senior leaders.
Tennessee State enters the game at No. 72 in the RPI and with three seniors in the starting lineup. The Tigers went 20-11 a year ago and had the second-best record in the Ohio Valley (11-5).
“You’re talking about a veteran group, that probably in their mind thinks they’re going to win the OVC,” Gottfried said. “They’re going to be an NCAA tournament-type team.”
N.C. State’s nonconference schedule has been light on opponents in the top 100 of the RPI. The Wolfpack, No. 57 in the RPI, lost to Creighton (No. 2 in the RPI) and Illinois (81) and has a win over St. Joseph’s (70). Normally, strength of schedule outside the ACC helps Gottfried’s teams with the NCAA tournament selection committee. This is one of the few chances the Wolfpack probably will have before ACC play to pick up what could be a quality win.
The other four teams left on the schedule are Fairfield (187), Rider (209), Appalachian State (241) and McNeese State (259).
Gottfried is only worried about Tennessee State, which starts three fifth-year seniors and ranks No. 20 in the country in Ken Pomeroy’s experience metric, while N.C. State ranks No. 310.
“Their strength is their age,” Gottfried said. “This is an old team.”
Other than the Wofford game, and the run-in with Hess, N.C. State has won all of the games (14-1) played at Reynolds since it moved its home games from the on-campus gym to PNC Arena before the 1999-2000 season.
“That was a bad memory for me,” Gottfried said. “Hopefully that won’t happen again.”
Joe Giglio: 919-829-8938, @jwgiglio
Tennessee State, No. 72 in the RPI as of Friday, gives N.C. State a chance to pick up a quality win in what has otherwise been a lackluster nonconference schedule. The schedule profile of the Wolfpack, No. 57 in the RPI, outside the ACC:
St. Francis (NY)
Note: x-game played at Paradise Jam in U.S. Virgin Islands