The regular season completed, N.C State looks toward the postseason with confidence.
The Wolfpack’s first-year coach, Kevin Keatts, led the team to an unexpected 21-10 overall record. Only once in the last 17 seasons as N.C. State had more regular season wins (Mark Gottfried’s 2013 team had 22).
The Wolfpack’s 11-7 ACC record gives it the No. 5 seed for the ACC tournament, which starts Tuesday at the Barclays Center in Brooklyn, N.Y. Last year’s NCAA champions, North Carolina, is the No. 6 seed for the ACC tournament, the first time since 2004 the Wolfpack has a higher ACC tournament seed than the Tar Heels.
While all of this is fun and noteworthy, Keatts, the Wolfpack and the school’s fans want it to continue in the NCAA tournament.
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While we don’t know for sure that the selection committee will put N.C. State in the field when its revealed on March 11, it’s difficult to find logic for leaving the Wolfpack out with all this season’s accomplishments.
“The committee will have to decide that on next Sunday,” Keatts said Saturday night after the Wolfpack beat Louisville, 76-69, at PNC Arena. “We look like one. I can tell you that now. We have answered every question that NCAA teams have in the past. The past was all about how you finish the season. Well, we finished the season well. It’s about can you win on the road. Well, we won on the road. It’s about who you beat and when you beat them. We’ve beaten five top 25 teams, at least four top 20 teams, so we got 11 wins in the ACC. I’m going to let you guys make the case. I am just stating some facts.”
The metrics the NCAA committee uses, RPIs and computer rankings like KenPom.com and quadrants measuring easy and difficult games for the entire season, show no reason the Wolfpack will be excluded no matter what happens in Brooklyn this week.
Here’s a look at where those numbers stand now that the regular season is completed.
N.C. State saw its RPI in the top 50 (at 47) a few days ago. Thursday night’s 78-75 loss at Georgia Tech dropped it back to No. 61. But beating Louisville on Saturday night bumped N.C. State back up to 55.
In KenPom.com rankings, N.C. State is now No. 41.
The Louisville win counts toward quadrant 2 on the NCAA selection committee’s team sheets for N.C. State. Quadrant 2 includes home games against RPI teams 31 to 75, neutral site games against teams 51-100 and away games against teams 76-125.
The Wolfpack is 4-0 against Q2. N.C. State is 5-7 against the Q1, which are home games against the top 30, neutral site games against the top 50 and away games against the top 75.
So N.C. State enters the ACC tournament with a 9-7 mark against the top two quadrants, something certain to impress the committee.
Among teams from 40-60 in the RPI, only Alabama (10-12) has more wins in the top two quadrants than N.C. State. Virginia Tech (9-9) has just as many, but neither team has a winning record against the group like the Wolfpack does.
N.C. State is 4-3 against quadrant 3, which includes home games against RPI teams 76 to 160, neutral site games against teams 101-200 and away games against teams 136-240.
That’s not great, but N.C. State’s work against the top two quadrants should overcome that.
Bracketmatrix.com, the site which tracks dozens and dozens of bracket projections has the Wolfpack as a lock to make the NCAA tournament.
When the site was last updated on Saturday night, it was following 100 projections. N.C. State was included in 98 of them with an average seed of 9.72.
Jerry Palm’s latest bracket on Sunday morning at CBS Sports placed N.C. State as a No. 9 seed. Joe Lunardi at ESPN also has the Wolfpack a No. 9 seed.
N.C. State will play either No. 12 seed Boston College or No. 13 seed Georgia Tech on Wednesday. The Wolfpack own an 82-66 win over Boston College but lost 78-75 at Georgia Tech.
The Eagles are currently No. 100 in the RPI, while Georgia Tech is No. 147. So Wednesday’s game figures to be another Q3 game for the Wolfpack.
A win Wednesday means the Wolfpack would play No. 4 seed Clemson in Thursday’s quarterfinals. That would be a Q1 game for N.C State, a chance to boost it’s already impressive record in the top quadrants.
Of course, at this point, it’s really about boosting the Wolfpack’s seed for the NCAA tournament. Even a loss Wednesday, in Q3, wouldn’t necessarily keep N.C. State out of the field. But it could drop the Wolfpack into the First Four at Dayton, Ohio, depending upon what happens at other league tournaments.