NC State's basketball team is having a dream run in the ACC tournament so far. Coming into the tournament with an all-time low seeding (10), no one even took them seriously. This, considering that they had beaten the fabled UNC once and Virginia Tech twice (yes, home and away) during the regular season.
Suddenly they are in the spotlight as giant-killers! They made the unthinkable happen by beating Duke in the first round, and now have taken down Virginia in the quarterfinals. These two teams had comprehensively beaten NC State during the regular season and are both Top 25 teams in the Coaches poll, with Duke being at 21 and Virginia at 24.
Sidney Lowe's NBA-style offense seems to be paying off, and the team is led well by point-guard Engin Atsur. The team seems to be completely different every time he is on the court. He handles the ball well and makes great plays, making use of good finishers like Brendan Coster, Ben McCaulay, and Gavin Grant. Relative unknown Bryan Nieman also stepped up and shot a couple of three-pointers to bring the Wolfpack back into the game.
The Wolfpack have been derided all season long for lacking bench strength, leading to exhaustion among the starters. They have often been called the "six pack" for often using just a six-man rotation. This has resulted in player fatigue surfacing at key moments, such as the loss at North Carolina. Today was only the third time all season that Lowe used 7 or more players in a game.
In the first half it seemed like too much experimentation was going on (close to 9 players rotated in and out), and NC State went into the break trailing by 14 points. It would be great to know what Sidney Lowe told his wards or fed them during the break, because the regular starters came out and played like they were possessed. They soon cut the lead to 7 points, but then saw it stretch to 11 again. Nieman, Costner and Atsur soon pulled Virginia back and State were leading with around 8 minutes of the game left. They never relinquished the lead, and the game ended at 79-71 in favor of the Wolfpack.
Some key elements of the game: