The ‘Nostalgia Invitational Tournament’ continues for NC State on Sunday

NC State’s Keatts on victory over Hofstra: ‘We are playing for a championship’

NC State coach Kevin Keatts talks about playing after not getting a NCAA Tournament invite and how special a postseason game in Reynolds Coliseum is after the Wolfpack's victory over Hofstra in the first round of the NIT Tuesday, March 19, 2019.
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NC State coach Kevin Keatts talks about playing after not getting a NCAA Tournament invite and how special a postseason game in Reynolds Coliseum is after the Wolfpack's victory over Hofstra in the first round of the NIT Tuesday, March 19, 2019.

The second leg of the NIT, or more accurately the “Nostalgia Invitational Tournament,” brings N.C. State back to Reynolds Coliseum on Sunday night (7:30 p.m., ESPNU).

The Wolfpack (23-11) takes on Harvard (19-11) an unfamiliar foe with a familiar coach. Former Duke star Tommy Amaker brings his 12th Harvard team to Raleigh for the first meeting between the two schools. N.C. State has faced Hartford and Howard but never Harvard. Amaker went 2-2 as a player with the Blue Devils at Reynolds Coliseum, winning in visits in 1984 and ‘86 but losing in ‘85 and ‘87.

The Crimson knocked off Georgetown, 71-68 in the first round of the National Invitational Tournament, on the road on Wednesday. N.C. State beat Hofstra, 84-78 on Tuesday, in the second game at Reynolds Coliseum this season.

The Wolfpack has won 19 of 20 games at its old on-campus home since it moved out to PNC Arena in 1999. After the win, second-year N.C. State coach Kevin Keatts, who has 3-0 record at Reynolds, repeated his desire to play more games in the remodeled arena.

“I’m going to talk to coach Yow about scheduling some more games in Reynolds,” Keatts said in his post-game press conference on Tuesday.

And N.C. State athletic director Debbie Yow repeated her financial stance of public denying that plea. Yow, who was in the room with Keatts and the gathered media, quickly responded: “Can’t afford it.”

N.C. State topped $7.3 million in ticket revenue from men’s basketball in the most recent fiscal year tax filing. According to an athletic department spokesman, N.C. State has about 10,000 season-ticket holders and allots 4,000 seats per game for students.

The capacity at Reynolds Coliseum, which underwent a $35 million renovation in 2016, is now 5,500 for basketball. For each game there, 1,000 seats are reserved for students. That leaves 4,500 seats for 10,000 season-ticket holds. Hence, the financial dilemma.

N.C. State reported $25.6 million income in media rights in the most recent tax filing and with the launch of the conference’s new cable network, The ACC Network, that number will grow over the next few years.

There’s little doubt which setting provides a better home-court advantage for the Wolfpack. The fans are closer, the building is smaller and the volume is louder. The atmosphere at PNC Arena, especially for early-season games, is sterile and the large swatches of the upper level are empty.

The building can get loud but there’s no real home-court advantage unless the Wolfpack is playing a name-brand nonconference opponent, Duke or UNC.

N.C. State also has history at Reynolds. It’s where Everett Case started the tradition of ACC basketball. It’s where David Thompson, the best in ACC history, played his home games and where Jim Valvano sowed the seeds of the “March Madness” concept.

“This was my second chance to coach in this building and what an electric building, what a great place,” Keatts said after the 100-67 win over Western Carolina.

The announced average attendance for 18 games at PNC Arena this season was 15,763. The school counts the “tickets distributed” towards official attendance but most of the early-season games at PNC Arena, in November and December, were less than half full.

N.C. State had two sellout crowds at PNC Arena (official capacity is listed as 19,500) this season: losses to UNC on Jan. 8 and to Virginia Tech on Feb. 2. The regular-season game at Reynolds, against Western Carolina on Dec. 5, was sold out. Sunday’s game is sold out as was Tuesday’s NIT game at Reynolds.

N.C. State’s contract with the Centennial Authority requires the team to play 15 homes games there each season. The Wolfpack played 18 homes games at PNC this season, including all nine ACC games. The arena contract does not require the school to play all of its ACC games there.

Next season, the ACC is expanding to a 20-game schedule, which would leave 11 nonconference slots. N.C. State is scheduled to go to Auburn next season and has a return game with UNC-Greensboro scheduled for the Greensboro Coliseum, the site of the 2020 ACC tournament. The Commercial Appeal has reported Memphis and the Wolfpack are scheduled to meet in Brooklyn in November. There’s also a home game in the annual ACC/Big Ten Challenge for the Wolfpack, which would make more sense at PNC Arena.

That doesn’t leave many slots for an extra game (or two) at Reynolds on the nonconference slate. The season-opener against Georgia Tech, scheduled for the launch of the ACC Network, might be an opportunity for N.C. State to play a league game at Reynolds.

With Yow set to retire on May 1, getting more games at Reynolds will be an early decision for Boo Corrigan, her replacement.

There’s little doubt where most of the fans or players would prefer to play more regularly and against better competition than the annual “Heritage Game.”

“Playing in Reynolds is so much fun because it’s so loud,” forward Wyatt Walker said after the Hofstra win. “The fans were great.”