By the time the Wolfpack’s fate was sealed in their Sweet 16 loss to Louisville in the NCAA tournament a week and a half ago, I had seen more NC State basketball in the month of March than I did in the previous five months combined. That’s as much a testament to NC State’s effort to extend their March as it was an indicator of how unsupportive I continue to be as a fan. But I am a fan, and I am so proud of this team. I’m also a little disappointed.
Making it to the Sweet 16 was a great accomplishment for this team, an iteration of an ever evolving program that some have called the most exciting they’ve watched in their lifetime. When I first read that sentiment, it gave me pause. I mean, how could you forget about those Hodge teams or even the grit and grind of the Grundy teams in the late 90s/early Aughts? Or, even more recently, Zo and TJ1? But then I realized those guys were all guards2. While we’ve had semi-athletic or smooth operating bigs in the past, it’s been a while since we’ve had a combination of athleticism and strength in the front court to go along with a cadre of nice guard play in the backcourt. And suddenly I find myself wondering if perhaps this is the most exciting Wolfpack squad we’ve fielded in more than thirty years.
Don’t worry, I’m not making the leap quite yet. It’s just something to consider. I don’t think we’re better than Louisville, and the outcome of the game late last week certainly bears that out – but we were good enough to beat them that night. Louisville stepped up and did what they had to do to put us away. I’m disappointed that we let some solid opportunities slip through our fingers, but I’m excited3 about next year. I don’t necessarily foresee an NCAA title or even an ACC title, but I think next year’s team will be a lot of fun to watch. I may have been late to the party, but it seems I certainly caught them at a good time.
Photo Credit: NC State