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Kevin Keatts is not sure if N.C. State finished the regular season with a résumé that merits a berth in the NCAA Tournament, but first-year head coach is able to recite some figures that just so happen to bolster the Wolfpack’s case.
N.C. State enters the ACC Tournament in Brooklyn, New York, with wins in five of its last six games. The Pack suffered a head-scratching loss Thursday at Georgia Tech, a team that was on a seven-game losing streak, but responded on short rest at home Saturday with a 76-69 win over Louisville at PNC Arena to conclude the regular season 21-10 overall and 11-7 in ACC play.
The Pack enters the ACC Tournament as a No. 5 seed and will face No. 12 Boston College, an 87-77 winner over No. 13 Georgia Tech in Tuesday’s opening Game. Wednesday’s tip-off is scheduled for 5 p.m. at The Barclays Center.
“I’m excited about the way we’re playing,” Keatts said. “If you think about it, winning five out of six games to end the regular season, that says you’re playing very good basketball. Our guys are starting to figure it out. We’re sharing the basketball. When you look at our team, in order for us to be successful, we have to play together, and I think our guys are starting to understand that. We’ve got to be a high assist team, a low turnover team, take good shots and we’re starting to do that.”
With Keatts coaching for the first time in one the more marquee postseason events in college basketball, that could normally lead to some reservations or awe.
Do not expect that from the first-year head coach Wednesday.
“I am excited about it but not to where you think I’m overwhelmed,” Keatts said of his ACC Tournament debut. “I am not going over there goo-goo eyed because I am playing in the ACC Tournament. I have played everybody that’s there. I am excited for it. I am excited for the opportunity. I am excited to see what my guys can do in the tournament.”
With the potential for up to four games in Brooklyn for the Wolfpack, and a tournament title meaning an automatic berth in the postseason, there is ability to maneuver both up and down in the current RPI rankings.
With N.C. State currently 53th in the standings and with the likelihood that some conference tournaments will have upset winners to claim NCAA Tournament spots, there is some speculation that the Pack still has work to do to claim its spot in “The Big Dance.”
Keatts has some helpful figures for those who are not quite sure.
The committee will have to decide (if N.C. State belongs in the NCAA Tournament) on next Sunday,” Keatts said when asked if the Wolfpack is a tournament team. “We look like one. I can tell you that now.
“We have answered every question that NCAA teams have in the past. The past was all about how you finish the season. Well, we finished the season well. It’s about can you win on the road. Well, we won on the road. It’s about who you beat and when you beat them. We’ve beaten five top 25 teams, at least four top 20 teams, so we got 11 wins in the ACC. I’m going to let you guys make the case. I am just stating some facts.”
HICKS TO MOVE ON
Darius Hicks, a 6-foot-7 forward from Quitman, Mississippi, who appeared in four games this season before being sidelined by a torn ACL, will transfer from N.C. State.
Hicks, who averaged 4.3 points per game prior to his injury, did not travel with the team to Brooklyn for the ACC Tournament.
With his pending transfer, he joins Shaun Kirk as the second player who has left the program this season. Kirk moved to UNC Pembroke following the end of the fall semester.
N.C. State head coach Kevin Keatts has added three transfers this season. C.J. Bryce, Devon Daniels and Blake Harris have joined the program and will take the court for the Wolfpack in 2018-19, with Harris eligible to play in January of 2019.