To preview this Saturday's game between Boston College and N.C. State, we swapped notes with Backing the Pack to learn more about the 'Pack. It's been so long. Our questions and their answers below.
BC Interruption: So it's been about 5 years since these programs last met up on the hardwood. So, like, what's new? How's everything going?
Backing The Pack: Things are going surprisingly well! Three weeks ago we were wondering if maybe this season was toast after NC State played so poorly in the first half of a road loss at Wake Forest. But the team's recent revival has it in solid shape for the NCAA tournament all the sudden. Did not see that coming.
The early portion of the year was marked by missed opportunities, with losses to Purdue, West Virginia, Cincinnati, and Wofford. None really dinged NC State's resume, but those were all games the Wolfpack could have (and in some cases, should have) won. But I don't want to moan too much about that. It ain't like we're Georgia Tech. Poor, poor Georgia Tech.
BCI: More recently, there was a stretch where N.C. State was a Trevor Lacey desperation three away from losing six straight and going just 2-8 over a 10 game span, from Virginia to Virginia game. But State has rebounded nicely, winners of three straight including a pair of upset wins over Louisville and Carolina. What's changed over the last three games that's lead to State's recent run?
BTP: N.C. State is playing significantly better at the defensive end lately, holding three of its last four opponents under a point per possession. Winning comes a lot more easily with some consistency at that end, and while Mark Gottfried's teams tend to be all over the place, that hasn't been the case lately.
Additionally, Cat Barber is playing more aggressively and more effectively at the point, which has made an enormous difference to N.C. State's outlook at the offensive end. His speed has always been an asset, but he hasn't always brought an assertive approach to games.
That's changed, and his growing confidence has helped him improve his outside shooting and become a larger part of the scoring.
BCI: T.J. Warren (42 points vs. BC last time these teams faced one another) is mercifully gone. Who's stepped up in his place in terms of offensive production this season?
BTP: It's been more of a collective effort, not surprisingly, with Trevor Lacey leading the way. Lacey's versatility and ability to create his own offense makes him a tough guy to guard, and he's in the midst of the best season of his career.
Cat Barber and Ralston Turner are also capable of carrying the offense for stretches, though typically in different ways. Turner hit four three-pointers at UNC on Tuesday night, which is indicative of how he can affect games with his outside shooting.
Barber can be more of a mystery, scoring-wise, because his jump shot isn't great, but he's also capable of getting to the rim often and picking up a few easy baskets that way.
BCI: I asked this question of Cardiac Hill earlier in the week, and since we are living vicariously through the rest of the league vis-a-vis postseason berths, I'll ask you guys too. State is right there on the proverbial NCAA Tournament bubble at this point. Gun to head, does the Wolfpack get in this year? And if they don't, what game or games will fans point to as the ones that got away and made the difference between the NCAA Tournament and the NIT?
BTP: I think NC State does get in. I like the wins the Pack has put together at the top of its resume, it's just got to avoid getting sunk by, say, losing to opponents like Boston College. While State is in a good spot as of today, I would never underestimate its ability to mess up a good thing. Road games are scary and we've still got two of those left.
If the Wolfpack doesn't get in, it'll be for some losses between now and Selection Sunday. We could look back to December or whatever, but the losses at this stage of the season would be the ones to haunt us.
BCI: Looking at the conference as a whole, how many ACC teams get into the NCAA Tournament?
BTP: I'll say seven, figuring one of Pitt or Miami works its way in—just barely. So one of those two plus NC State and the five locks. The Hurricanes have the chance to nab another quality win by beating UNC, and there is still a Miami-Pitt game remaining that might end up being an elimination game. Right now I think Miami's resume has fewer holes, but it's close.
BCI: Last one. Prediction time. Who ya got? What's the final score?
BTP: I never have a clue about games like this. It's a game NC State should win, but Boston College has shown it can be good enough to beat decent teams at home (Providence, Harvard). Some stuff is gonna happen, certainly. I'll go with NC State by six. I guess. I dunno.