N.C. State is looking for wins.
That’s the best way to explain the Wolfpack’s nonconference schedule for coach Kevin Keatts’ first season.
On paper, N.C. State’s slate out of games outside the ACC looks like it will be considerable easier than it was at any time during former coach Mark Gottfried’s tenure.
The Wolfpack will face seven teams who finished No. 240 or higher in the RPI last season and four of those teams won less than 10 games.
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Arizona (No. 2) and UNC Greensboro (95) are the only two teams N.C. State is guaranteed to play who finished last season in the top 100 of the RPI.
Coming off consecutive losing seasons with so many new players and with the number of ACC games that will boost the overall RPI, it does make some sense to try and build some confidence with wins early in the season.
Keatts said earlier this summer the more comfortable he gets with his team and when he has a better handle on the strength of his personnel, he’ll seek out more challenges in nonconference play.
Gottfried’s premise was to play as many games as possible to help the team’s NCAA tournament resume. One component of the RPI, which the NCAA selection committee emphasizes, is strength of nonconference schedule — which the committee values because it’s the portion of the schedule a team controls. Gottfried’s six N.C. State teams, from 2012 through 2017, respectively, ranked No. 25, 51, 161, 30, 83 and 236.
Keatts’ first schedule will be more like Gottfried’s last. S.C. State (No. 302), VMI (329) and Presbyterian (347) all ranked higher than 300 in the RPI last season. Keatts said earlier this summer with so many top 50 and 100 games in league play, he didn’t want to over-extend his team outside the ACC.
The Wolfpack will face Arizona, a preseason top 3 team, in the first game of the Battle 4 Atlantis in the Bahamas. There’s a chance the Wolfpack could also face SMU, No. 13 in the RPI last year, in the Thanksgiving week tournament.
The only other Power 5 opponent on the Wolfpack’s schedule is Penn State, which is part of the ACC/Big Ten Challenge.
Most difficult stretch
The ACC schedule opens with a pair of road games – at Clemson, at Notre Dame – and then a home date with Duke, likely to begin the season ranked No. 1 in the country.
The first four opponents – VMI, Charleston Southern, Bryant and Presbyterian — had a combined record of 27-88 last season. Keatts should have a 4-0 record when the Pack faces off with Sean Miller and Arizona in the Battle 4 Atlantis.
Three games to know
1) The annual game at Reynolds Coliseum is always fun. Last year’s went into overtime, a win over Tennessee State, and the previous one – before Reynolds was renovated – was a last-second loss to Wofford.
2) Odd that N.C. State faces Clemson twice in the first four ACC games. Gottfried’s tenure actually ended with back-to-back losses to the Tigers.
3) Keatts’ first chance against UNC is Jan. 27 in Chapel Hill and the return game in Raleigh is Feb. 10.
NC State schedule
Nov. 3 x-Mars Hill, 7 p.m.
Nov. 10 VMI
Nov. 12 Charleston Southern
Nov. 14 Bryant
Nov. 16 Presbyterian
Nov. 22 y-vs. Arizona
Nov. 23 y-vs. Northern Iowa/SMU
Nov. 24 y-Battle 4 Atlantis
Nov. 29 Penn State, 7 p.m.
Dec. 2 S.C. State
Dec. 9 UMKC (at Reynolds Coliseum)
Dec. 16 UNCG
Dec. 19 Robert Morris
Dec. 22 Jacksonville
Dec. 30 at Clemson
Jan. 3 at Notre Dame, 9 p.m.
Jan. 6 Duke, 2 or 8 p.m.
Jan. 11 Clemson, 9 p.m.
Jan. 14 at Virginia, 6 p.m.
Jan. 18 Wake Forest, 8 p.m.
Jan. 21 Miami, noon
Jan. 24 at Pittsburgh, 9 p.m.
Jan. 27 at UNC, noon
Feb. 3 Notre Dame, noon
Feb. 7 at Virginia Tech, 9 p.m.
Feb. 10 UNC, 2 p.m.
Feb. 14 at Syracuse, 9 p.m.
Feb. 17 at Wake Forest, 4 p.m.
Feb. 20 Boston College, 7 p.m.
Feb. 25 Florida State, 6 p.m.
March 1 at Georgia Tech, 8 p.m.
March 3 Louisville, 6 p.m.
Notes: x-preseason; y-Battle 4 Atlantis, Bahamas