It's a little strange to call State's ACC opener a must-win game, but the fact is that the Pack needs to beat Maryland on Sunday night.
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While State has fared well against a tough non-conference schedule, it has not done enough to solidify itself as an NCAA tourney team. During the first half of the season, State played tougher, more passionately and just flat out better than it did over the past five seasons, but failed to pull out a win over a top 50 team. As Coach Gottfried pointed out to his team and the media, State needs to win 11 ACC games to make the NCAA Tournament. To do so, the Pack has to win at home against the middle and lower tier teams in the league.
Beating Maryland will not likely be easy. The Terps have been a thorn in the Pack's side for the better part of a decade, and currently hold a frustrating 9 game winning streak over State. The Terps have recently added two very good players to the rotation in Alex Len and Pe'Shon Howard, and have won seven straight games after a rough start to the season.
Earlier this season, well-known NC State blog StatefansNation posted about "taking it back" with regard to State's all-time record against various opponents. For most of the history of the ACC, State was in the top 3 in conference wins and had a winning record against the Terps. Currently, the Terps are third in all-time ACC wins and hold a 76-72 record over State. For State to get back to where it belongs, this is one of the rivalries the Pack must turn around.
To get back to where it belongs, State needs to regain its place in the ACC pecking order ahead of schools like Maryland, Wake Forest and Georgia Tech. Coach Gottfried, who has already shown his recruiting prowess, can establish that his program is going to be a force in the ACC and get a leg up on fellow newcomer, Mark Turgeon. It all starts with a win on Sunday.
There are a variety of ways one could view the 10-3 start the Maryland men’s basketball team takes into tonight’s ACC opener at N.C. State.
There’s the optimist’s approach, that no matter how the Terrapins are playing, they’re winning, overcoming adversity to string together seven straight victories and match their longest such streak since the end of the 2009-10 regular season.
Then there’s coach Mark Turgeon’s perspective, perhaps the realist’s view, that this is a team rife with flaws and causes for concern, that hasn’t beaten anybody of note while struggling with some of the nation’s lowest-rated teams.
Of Maryland’s 10 victories, just four have come against teams ranked in the top 200 of the Sagarin ratings (out of 345 Division I squads), entering Friday. The Terps’ highest-rated win came against No. 99 Colorado.
And among those victories over unimpressive opponents, just two have come by double digits.
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