This is always an exciting time of the year, and that goes beyond college basketball or sports for that matter. Holiday celebrations and the excitement for New Years are on the forefront of most people’s minds right now. As for the NC State basketball team, they need to prepare more than celebrate. I’m not saying they can’t enjoy the holidays. Go ahead and enjoy the 75 degree December weather. Here’s what I am saying: NC State better be ready for what’s quickly coming after all the fun – conference play. And as we all know, the Atlantic Coast Conference is a basketball powerhouse. Don’t eat too much over the holidays boys, you’ll need to save room to eat come January.
The ACC has five programs who are currently ranked in the NCAA top 25. Those teams are No. 5 Virginia, No. 7 North Carolina, No. 13 Miami, No. 15 Duke, and No. 16 Louisville. Other notable teams are Pittsburgh (who have received votes to be in the top 25), Florida State, Notre Dame, and Wake Forest. These nine teams are all extremely talented, some just younger than others. Programs such as Virginia, Duke, Louisville, and Notre Dame all lost big time players to the NBA or graduation, but still pose a threat to any opponent. Miami, North Carolina, and Wake Forest built upon the stars they already possessed from last season. There is a wide range of team dynamics within these programs, but all are lethal.
To say the least, the Wolfpack have a long road ahead. These nine programs make up thirteen games on NC State’s schedule. Thirteen. That is approximately 70% of the Wolfpack’s remaining games. NC State needs to make chemistry atop the New Year’s resolutions or else Cat Barber needs to fully take matters in his own hands. Their past twelve games have been 75% wins with a 100% chance you say the line “what are you doing insert player’s name?”.
NC State faces Northeastern on December 29th as their final non-conference game. This is the final calm wave before the storm. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not downplaying NC State’s non-conference schedule this year. The Wolfpack were highlighted for beating Ben “the next LeBron” Simmons and his LSU Tigers. That was impressive. Nevertheless, there is just something about conference play that makes things a little more competitive and exciting. This goes for any team in any sport. We know this.
Terry Henderson, who started the season at guard, is expected to return to the NC State lineup in a few weeks after tearing ligaments the first game of the season. He will undoubtedly add a scoring and leadership element to the NC State basketball team. There is hopes that he will also facilitate chemistry among players. His return is expected to be huge for the Wolfpack.
History, as of late, says that NC State will do mediocre against conference opponents and barely slip into the NCAA tournament. Critics would probably project the Wolfpack to be an NIT tournament team this year. NC State fans (the visionaries) would say that we will beat the teams we are supposed to lose to and lose to teams we are supposed to beat. No matter what is assumed about NC State, they cannot overlook Northeastern. If the Wolfpack were to win that game, they would have the best non-conference start (10-3) since the 2012-2013 season. They are one game away from ACC conference play. Finish the non-conference stretch strong and start the ACC stretch stronger. It’s going to be here before we know it.