The good thing for N.C. State is it collected enough big-time wins this season to put itself in position where it didn’t need a frantic finish to make the NCAA tournament.
The bad news is the Wolfpack played long stretches in two of its last three games lacking that sense of urgency.
After the Wolfpack lost 78-75 last Thursday to a Georgia Tech team that had lost its previous seven games, freshman guard Braxton Beverly said N.C State got caught “thinking maybe we were too good.”
N.C. State recovered to beat Louisville 76-69 two nights later and seemed to correct its flawed thinking from Atlanta.
Then came Wednesday in Brooklyn.
No first-round winner had reached the ACC quarterfinals since the league tournament went to its current 15-team format in 2014. First-round winners were 0-10.
Boston College, seeded No. 12, proceeded to take it to the fifth-seeded Wolfpack, building a 10-point lead in less than six minutes of play. The Eagles led by 14 at halftime and as many as 17 in the second half.
Watch a time-lapse as NC State's Markell Johnson makes a huge dunk while being fouled during the Wolfpack's game against Boston College in the second round of the ACC Tournament in Brooklyn, N.Y., Wednesday, March 7, 2018.
The Wolfpack’s furious rally to tie the game five times in the game’s final five minutes was notable and impressive. But, when Boston College headed to Thursday’s quarterfinals with a 91-87 win, N.C. State’s slow-footed approach to the first half proved the difference.
“We just didn’t do what we know to do in the first half,” Beverly said. “We came out slow. Just wasn’t ready from the jump. It just happens sometimes.”
Boston College shot 50.7 percent in the game. Its offensive efficiency, according to KenPom.com was 123.0, better than its 113.4 season rate.
Boston College guards Jerome Robinson (26 points) and Ky Bowman (24) combined to make 17 of 29 shots. N.C. State coach Kevin Keatts said a strong argument can be made they are the best backcourt in the ACC.
Still, Boston College’s strong play on offense throughout speaks to N.C. State’s defensive struggles just the same.
NC State's Allerik Freeman talks about mistakes in the final two minutes against Boston College that sends the Wolfpack home from the ACC Tournament.
So now the Wolfpack are forced to sit and wait for Sunday night’s NCAA tournament bracket release.
At 21-11 — with wins over sure-fire tournament teams Duke, North Carolina, Clemson and Arizona — N.C. State looks and feels like a tournament team.
The fact that it didn’t look like it in two of its last three games, though, allows doubt to creep in. That’s especially true when N.C. State had an RPI of 54 prior to losing to No. 97 Boston College.
But, if the Wolfpack get their tournament bid as expected, the time for playing that poorly for long stretches of the game has to end.
“I definitely use it as a motivation,” said N.C. State sophomore center Omer Yurtseven, who made just three of his first nine shots on Wednesday before making five of seven to finish with 20 points. “These type of losses hurt, and you've got to use that pain basically as energy for your next opponent.”
The Wolfpack will be forced to have a sense of urgency against whomever its next opponent is. That’s a good thing because that feeling has been missing lately.