Wolfpack fans gather at the NC State Bell Tower to welcome home the basketball team after their win over UNC. Chip Alexander calexander@newsobserver.com
Wolfpack fans gather at the NC State Bell Tower to welcome home the basketball team after their win over UNC. Chip Alexander calexander@newsobserver.com

NC State

NC State isn’t yet a lock for the NCAA tournament. Kansas State might tell us why.

By Steve Wiseman

swiseman@heraldsun.com

January 28, 2018 06:32 PM

RALEIGH

N.C. State usually doesn’t miss the NCAA tournament when it beats both Duke and North Carolina during the regular season.

So with Saturday’s 95-91 overtime win at No. 10 North Carolina combined with with the Wolfpack’s 96-85 home win over Duke on Jan. 6, the Wolfpack is safe to make plans for this season’s tournament, correct?

Well, not quite yet.

Win wins over No. 2 Arizona, No. 2 Duke, No. 19 Clemson and No. 10 UNC, the Wolfpack (15-7, 5-4 ACC) has certainly put itself in great position to earn an at-large tournament bid. But N.C. State also has more work to do.

Help us deliver journalism that makes a difference in our community.

Our journalism takes a lot of time, effort, and hard work to produce. If you read and enjoy our journalism, please consider subscribing today.

Beating the Tar Heels, which entered Saturday’s game No. 5 in the RPI, moved the Wolfpack up 12 spots to No. 62 in the RPI.

That’s tenuous bubble territory.

Here’s why.

Kansas State, from the Big 12 Conference, is also a bubble team. The Big 12 and the ACC are 1-2 in terms of conference RPI.

Watch a time lapse as NC State, up by three with 15 seconds left in overtime, forces North Carolina to commit two turnovers to help seal the victory over the Tar Heels at the Smith Center in Chapel Hill, NC Saturday, Jan. 27, 2018. Ethan Hymanehyman@newsobserver.com

The Wildcats are 16-5 with a No. 54 RPI. According to the NCAA Selection Committee’s team sheets, Kansas State is 6-4 against teams in the quadrants 1 and 2 (home games against teams 1-75 in RPI, road games against 1-135 and neutral site games against 1-100).

Kansas State’s non-conference strength of schedule is No. 336.

Compare that to N.C. State at 15-7 overall with a No. 62 RPI. The Wolfpack is 4-5 against quadrants 1 and 2. N.C. State’s non-conference strength of schedule is No. 267.

Here’s what respected NCAA bracket projector Jerry Palm of CBS Sports wrote about Kansas State this week while excluding the Wildcats from his bracket:

“The Wildcats have one of the 20 worst non-conference schedules in Division I. Teams get left out almost every season primarily because of a putrid non-conference slate. On top of that, KSU lost one of those games, at home to Tulsa, which is its only bad loss. Kansas State is going to have to do more than have a couple of home wins over competitive teams to make up for that. A lot more.”

Remember, Kansas State has a better overall record, better RPI and a better record against the top two quadrants and a worse non-conference schedule than N.C. State.

The largest type size used on the Team Sheet displays the following numbers: average RPI of teams you beat, average RPI of teams you lost to.

Kansas State’s are 167 and 45.

N.C. State’s are 180 and 48.

This comparison should explain why the Wolfpack, even with its marquee wins, still isn’t a lock to make the field of 68.

Wolfpack gives Coach Kevin Keatts his first win in Chapel Hill on Saturday, January 27, 2018 at the Smith Center. Robert Willettrwillett@newsobserver.com

On the plus side, since Mike Krzyzewski was hired by Duke in 1980, N.C. State has beaten both Duke and Carolina during the regular season nine times (1983, ‘85, ‘89, ‘90, ‘91, ‘95, 2003, ‘13 and ‘15) and made the NCAA tournament in seven of those seasons.

The only exceptions? When the Wolfpack wasn’t eligible for the postseason in 1990 and when Krzyzewski missed the last 19 games of the 1994-95 season with a back injury.

The Wolfpack still has nine regular-season ACC games to play, plus the ACC tournament. That means N.C. State still has plenty of chances to make its case.

Steve Wiseman: 919-419-6671, @stevewisemanNC