Clemson forward Jaron Blossomgame (5) goes to the basket as N.C. State forward Abdul-Malik Abu (0) defends during the first half of Tuesday’s ACC first-round tournament game in New York. The Wolfpack had their season ended with a 75-61 loss, marking the final game for head coach Mark Gottfried.
By Rob McLamb
Special to the Times
N.C. State’s painful campaign came to a fitting close Tuesday as the Wolfpack was comfortably defeated by Clemson in the first round of the 2017 ACC Tournament.
The Pack finished 15-17 overall, including losses in 10 of the team’s final 11 games. It is the second straight season State has finished with a record below .500.
The focus now shifts replacing outgoing head coach Mark Gottfried.
Some potential candidates include (in no particular order): Archie Miller of Dayton, Scott Drew of Baylor, Richard Pitino of Minnesota, Ed Cooley of Providence, Kevin Keats of UNC-Wilmington and Will Wade of Virginia Commonwealth.
Gregg Marshall of Wichita State has been listed among those that N.C. State may be interested in, but rumors are now circulating that he may be pricing himself out of contention by asking for about five million per year.
N.C. State has retained the services of Parker Executive Search to assist in the coaching search. It is unlikely the school will speak to any candidates directly until their respective seasons conclude.
BASEBALL SET FOR ACC OPENER
It has been an uneven start for N.C. State. After a win in Wilmington on Wednesday, the Wolfpack will have to continue to build towards contention during conference play.
N.C. State defeated UNCW, 8-5, with Wilmington-native and Hoggard High School alum Joe O’Donnell picking up the win for the Pack. The victory moves the team, currently ranked No. 20 nationally by Baseball America, to 7-6 overall.
State will now travel to Winston-Salem to take on Wake Forest in a three-game set. The opener is slated for 6 p.m. Friday. Weather concerns have moved Sunday’s finale to Saturday, with the two schools playing a twinbill at David F. Couch Ballpark beginning at 1 p.m.
“I am not sure we are ready for ACC play and I wish we were playing better right now but the time has come,” N.C. State head coach Elliott Avent said following the Wolfpack’s win Wednesday. “We picked up a good win against a solid team and we have played a tough nonconference schedule. I wish we were further along but we will make the trip to face a really good Wake Forest team and see what we can do.”
The bullpen has been a work in progress and Avent is loathe to call one particular pitcher his closer, preferring instead to let game situations dictate his moves.
There has been one consistency with Avent this season in that he is will to use right-hander Austin Staley whenever things get tough. After a late three-run homer closed NC State’s lead over UNCW to two runs, the head coach summoned the redshirt-sophomore and he immediately closed the door to limit the damage. The Seahawks would not seriously threaten again for the remainder of the contest.
Staley, who picked up the save Wednesday, has pitched in six games this season and sports a 2.08 ERA in 13 innings of work. He has allowed six hits while striking out 12 and walking only two.
“Austin has been fantastic so far,” Avent said. “I definitely have confidence in him and there is no fear in using him in any situation really. He gets out in front of guys and puts the hitter on the back foot early in the count. I am proud of him and what he is doing.”
N.C. State’s women’s basketball team suffered a brutal one-point loss to No. 14 Louisville in the quarterfinals of the 2017 ACC Tournament in Conway, South Carolina on Monday. The Wolfpack, ranked No. 18 in the nation, are 22-8 overall and await their NCAA Tournament fate.
The loss will make it harder for the Pack to claim a coveted host spot in the upcoming NCAA Tournament. State has wins against four schools ranked in the Associated Press top-12. The Pack joins UConn as the only two teams with wins over both Notre Dame and Florida State this season.
Like the baseball team, the Wolfpack will also open conference play on the diamond in softball as N.C. State welcomes Syracuse to Raleigh. Like the baseball series, there has been a scheduling change due to upcoming weather concerns. A doubleheader will be played between the two schools Friday with the opener slated for 3 p.m. and the following contest at 5. The series will conclude with a matchup Saturday at 2 p.m.
There will be four members of the N.C. State track and field team competing at the NCAA Championships Friday and Saturday on the campus of Texas A&M in College Station, Texas. The quartet consists of Joshua Davis (weight throw), Erika Kemp (5,000m), Rachel Koon (3,000m) and Megan Moye (mile).
N.C. State finished second in the ACC during the previous weekend in the 2017 ACC Wrestling Championship to end a two-year run as conference champion. Virginia Tech took the title with seven ACC individual champions while the Wolfpack had one, second-ranked Kevin Jack at 141, claim a title.
During the ACC Wrestling Championship, the Wolfpack had six of its wrestlers earn a spot in the NCAA Championship. On Tuesday, the remaining four were handed at large bids marking the first time in school history that all 10 wrestlers qualified across all 10 weight classes. Only Oklahoma State joins N.C. State with a starter from each weight class reaching the postseason.
Rob McLamb has covered NC State Athletics and recruiting for Pack Pride (Scout.com) since 2012. You can follow him on Twitter @RobMcLamb.