ATLANTA -- NC State coach Mark Gottfried believes that Virginia, which boasts the same regular-season ACC record (9-7) as the Wolfpack, is headed to the NCAA tournament.
The question is: Will a win over the fourth-seeded Cavaliers in the league quarterfinals on Friday get NC State there, as well?
“They’ve had a great year," Gottfried said after his fifth-seeded team beat Boston College 78-57 on Thursday to advance at Philips Arena. “I would say this, as everybody likes to sing their song: We have the same record in the league, we played a great nonconference schedule and, when you look at the strength of schedule, ours is obviously much higher.
“But they beat us at our gym, and it was a one-point game. So for us, it’s a golden opportunity.”
Gottfried, NCSU's first-year coach, predicted at the beginning of the season that his team would need 11 ACC victories to make the NCAAs for the first time since 2006. But five of its wins were against Georgia Tech, Boston College and Wake Forest, the three worst teams in the league. Meanwhile, it went 0-for-5 against the top four teams in the conference: North Carolina, Duke, Florida State and Virginia.
In addition, the Wolfpack are 1-8 against teams with a top-50 RPI. (They beat Texas, currently rated 50th in that category.)
That’s one of the reasons ESPN bracketologist Joe Lunardi began the day with NC State listed outside the NCAA field of 68.
“And that’s not something you want to see,’’ said Wolfpack point guard Lorenzo Brown, who had 12 points and eight assists in Thursday’s victory. “ ... But all we can do is win.”
A victory against the Cavaliers would help, because it would give the Pack another ‘W’ over a top-50 RPI team. (State also should be rooting for ACC foe Miami, which it beat twice this season and which could move into the top 50 with a couple of ACC tournament wins.)
But it’s a slippery bubble, as there are 20-plus teams fighting for 15 or so slots (not taken up by automatic qualifiers or at-large locks).
“We all wish we knew; we wish we had a crystal ball and we could look in there and it would tell us exactly [what would happen]," Gottfried said. “For us, the answer is to continue to win, and I don’t know if that’s one game, two games, three games. I know if we win this tournament, we get to go. And our guys have come over here, and that’s our goal -- to win the tournament.
“So we’re going to play as hard as we can; there are some things we can’t control. So what our job is, is to do the best job we can, and we’ll go from there.”
Follow Robbi Pickeral on Twitter at @bylinerp.