Thursday, February 26, 2015

One game does not a season make … but it helps

(Editor’s Note: This post about NC State beating UNC 58-46 was supposed to run Wed, Feb 25, but the game Tues, Feb 24 ended too late to make Wednesday’s edition. But, if the game had been between UNC and Duke, it would have made it, no if, and or but…)

A few years ago in Carter-Finley Stadium, after NC State defeated East Carolina and as the fans exited the stadium, one Pirates fan was heard to say, “You State fans kill me; there’s only one game you really want to win each year and that’s against East Carolina.” That blond-haired female East Carolina fan doesn’t quite understand (didn’t expect her to understand). For the Wolfpack, it’s not the Pirates as the team to defeat if it's a football season with one win and 11 losses. It’s the Tar Heels, of course. A win against ECU is just a win, no more, no less. Losing to ECU is a drag on State’s program, the reason State doesn’t want or need to play East Carolina in football.

The blonde should understand that one game does not a season make. However, in some cases it does. For instance, last Thanksgiving weekend, the Wolfpack went to Chapel Hill and kicked UNC’s butts, 35-7, which actually "made" the season for NC State. A loss may have kept NC State out of a bowl. The win guaranteed a winning season and helped in recruiting. It gave the program the emotional high it needed. Fans were euphoric. And, when looking back at the 2014 season, that game will be remembered more than any other win including the bowl game and more than having Florida State on the ropes before collapsing. The season was a huge success because of beating UNC, especially in Chapel Hill. One game made it.

NC State’s 58-46 basketball win over UNC Tuesday night in Chapel Hill goes a long way in making this season as well. It did more for the Wolfpack than the Tar Heels’ win in Raleigh last month did for UNC. State may have been expected to win in Raleigh, but losing was not so much out of the question. In Chapel Hill, the Tar Heels were favored by nine and probably saw the game more a must, must win than State did just a must win, though the Wolfpack probably needed it solidify NCAA tournament qualification. As it turns out, the Wolfpack wanted it more than UNC, played better than UNC and was cause for UNC not playing up to the level expected by coach Roy Williams or its fans. State didn’t win because UNC played poorly. UNC played poorly because of NC State. Actually, Mark Gottfried out-coached Williams.

The season still has a long way to go for the Wolfpack. There remains three regular season games, all conference: at Boston College, at Clemson, Syracuse in Raleigh. Winning each gives State an outside chance—depending on how Louisville, UNC and Pitt do—at finishing in the top four and having a double bye in the ACC Tournament. (There’s always an outside chance.) Then there’s the ACC Tournament, and the NCAA event. State’s resume with 12 point wins against Duke and UNC and a nine-point win at Louisville is solid to get into the NCAA, but the Wolfpack cannot falter now. While the win Tuesday night isn’t today a season-maker, hopefully it shows the players that giving a complete effort will make its season better. In that regard, one game may turn out to be a successful season-maker.
-------------------- word of the day
inutile (adjective) [in-yoo-til]: of no use or service 

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