Later tonight, NC State begins postseason play with an opening round NIT game against the Davidson Wildcats in Texas. Nothing about that sentence seems right. The Pack wasn’t supposed to be in the NIT and if they were, surely, they would have had a home game. The idea that two NC teams would travel to Texas to play in the first round of the NIT is just strange.
But with the way the season unfolded, it wasn’t a sure thing the Pack would even get an NIT bid. Often dubbed the “Not Important” Tournament, it’s still a nice thing for the seniors to get a chance to extend their college careers. And if we’re going to play and keep score, we might as well win.
Davidson is tiny compared to North Carolina State but the Wildcats enter this game as the favorite. They have multiple shooters on their team, which as Syracuse has shown three times this year, is a tough thing for State to handle. However, Davidson is not a particularly good offensive rebounding team. Since State has trouble securing defensive rebounds, this will be a key point.
The Wildcats have some size on the wings but how they match up inside against D.J. Funderburk and Manny Bates in the post will go a long way in determining the outcome of this game.
In normal times, you always need to be concerned about how a Power Five club would react to being in the NIT. Would they look at it as beneath them? That certainly happened with State back in the 1983-84 season. The team had checked out and got bounced at home against Florida State, their seventh straight loss to close the season.
But it doesn’t feel like that’s the case here in 2021. If the team was mentally done, they could have easily declined the bid, opting to stay safe at home rather than subjecting themselves to more Covid protocols in Texas. And while that ’83-’84 team fell apart down the stretch, this State team had won five straight games before the ACC tournament.
The NIT was cut to 16 teams for this season. Two wins and State would be in the Final Four. It’s not the tournament you want to be in but let’s focus on the chance to play more games for the seniors and to get more experience for the freshmen. Oh, and State also has the chance to avenge a loss to Davidson the last time they played. Of course, that Wildcats team had a player you might have heard of – Stephen Curry.