Home » Columns » Currently Reading:

Behind Leslie, North Carolina State progresses when it comes to big games

March 12, 2012 Columns No Comments
ncstate

ATLANTA – Even before Mark Gottfried said it on Friday, you could see it: North Carolina State is now more ready to win the games it needs to. They weren’t ready early in the season, when they had some opportunities, but they showed this weekend at the ACC Tournament that they are in a better place now and at a good time. That remains the case despite a tough 69-67 loss to North Carolina in the semifinals on Saturday.

“Early in the year, we played a great schedule, but we just sometimes weren’t good enough,” said Gottfried after the Wolfpack knocked off Virginia. “I think now, this team is learning how to execute their offense in late-game, tough situations, get a defensive stop at a tough time.”

You can see the growth overall, and a lot has to do with their best player, C.J. Leslie. When he first returned from an NCAA suspension, he made an instant impact in the Legends Classic, although the Wolfpack came out of there with third place. As the season went along, he seemed to understand better that he was the best player on the team, and that meant at times he had to play like it. The staff worked on him in that respect as the season went along, and he delivered as they finished in a tie for fifth in the ACC. In the last four regular season games, Leslie averaged 20.3 points and 10.5 rebounds per game, posting three double-doubles.

Leslie had a big double-double on Friday with 19 points and 14 rebounds. On Saturday, he continued it, leading them to a halftime lead with 15 points on 7-9 shooting. When North Carolina went on an 11-0 run to regain the lead, it was Leslie who would later put them back on top with a tough basket and free throw for a conventional three-point play.

“Great players take their teams to great heights,” said Gottfried. “He has lifted his game a level, which is impressive to me.”

That lead wouldn’t last, and Leslie fouled out with over eight minutes left, which would have appeared to put them in a lot of danger. But they were able to hang in there, with Lorenzo Brown making several big plays. While moral victories aren’t what a team with their NCAA Tournament profile needs, it was another sign of how much this team has improved during the season.

“We knew we had to step it up the best way we could,” said Brown, who had 16 points and six assists on the afternoon.

In non-conference play, North Carolina State knocked off the teams they were supposed to, for the most part, but couldn’t break through in the best opportunities – Vanderbilt, Indiana, Stanford and Syracuse. Their win over Texas was good, but after that the next best win was probably over Princeton. The good thing for them is that they avoided a bad loss, and for the most part they did that in ACC play as their worst losses were against Georgia Tech (home) and Clemson (road).

As ACC play wore on, the Wolfpack managed to win a couple of games they needed to finish 9-7 in the conference, their first winning mark in the conference since 2005-06. They beat fellow bubble team Miami twice and nearly knocked off the Virginia team they beat on Friday. Although they ha a four-game losing streak late, they came against Duke, Florida State, North Carolina and the aforementioned loss at Clemson. They responded to that with two wins before the ACC Tournament.

In the end, it was enough for an NCAA Tournament bid, as the Wolfpack are the No. 11 seed in the Midwest region. In a year with such a weak bubble, they were a possibility despite striking out in non-conference play as they did. In many other years, they wouldn’t get much consideration. They went 7-10 against top 100 teams, but had just one win against a top 50 team (Virginia entered the week just outside the top 50, so that was not one of them).

Before the ACC Tournament, the at-large candidacy of North Carolina State was an unknown. After three games in Atlanta, it was not that much clearer, but they got in – and now they hope to do something with it given their improvement over the course of the season.

Comment on this Article:







Like Hoopville on Facebook

Advertisement


Your Phil of Hoops

What Kentucky gave us will be forgotten, and that’s too bad

April 5, 2015 by

kentucky

Most people are going to remember Kentucky in 2014-15 more for the one loss than the 38 wins and the journey that came with it. That’s the most unfortunate thing of all.

A happy resolution comes in Delaware

April 1, 2015 by

delaware

There has finally been a resolution to Monte Ross’ contract situation, and it’s a happy one for the Blue Hens’ head coach and his staff after the work they have done to rebuild the program.

Fran Dunphy deals with bubble uncertainty for the first time

March 15, 2015 by

temple

Temple is firmly on the bubble after losing in the American Athletic Conference Tournament to SMU. It’s the first time in head coach Fran Dunphy’s storied career that his team has been in this situation.

Hoopville Archives

Coaching Changes and NBA Draft Early Entrants

The coaching carousel is moving. Keep track of the latest coaching changes right here on Hoopville.

Also, keep track of players who have declared early for the NBA Draft.

College Basketball Tonight

We hope you enjoyed listening to COLLEGE BASKETBALL TONIGHT, a comprehensive look at the NCAA Tournament hosted by veteran college basketball broadcaster Ted Sarandis, joined by former St. John's and George Washington head coach Mike Jarvis, former Fairfield head coach Terry O'Connor and many great guests, including Hoopville's own Phil Kasiecki.

Here are links to the shows:

March 15, 2015 - First hour | Second hour

March 22, 2015 - First hour | Second hour

March 29, 2015 - First hour | Second hour

April 5, 2015 - First hour | Second hour | Third hour

Phil Kasiecki on Twitter

Recruiting Coverage

2015 Hoopville Spring Finale Notes

June 30, 2015 by

hoopguy-divisionII

We look back at more from the 2015 Hoopville Spring Finale, where some of the championship games were worth the price of admission.

A big championship day for a local program at the Hoopville Spring Finale

June 23, 2015 by

hoopguy-yellow

The 2015 Hoopville Spring Finale saw a number of good championship games on Sunday to close it out, and we start our look back with a look at those games.

Player highlights from Mass Elite and Boston Warriors college showcase

June 4, 2015 by

hoopguy-cyan

Two big programs, Mass Elite and the Boston Warriors, got together once again on a college showcase for many of their high school players. We look at some who stood out on the evening.

2015 Massachusetts AAU Tournament notes

June 3, 2015 by

author_kasiecki

Massachusetts held its AAU championship rounds in a few age groups and its entire tournament for the oldest age group this weekend. We take a look at some of Sunday’s action in Foxboro.

adidas Gauntlet Indianapolis – Sunday notes

April 29, 2015 by

adidasuprising

Sunday was the conclusion of the adidas Gauntlet Indianapolis, and we take a look at some of the players who shined on a day that saw a few games that weren’t very competitive.