Monday, November 22, 2010

Hoyas' loss doesn't diminish positives for N.C. State

The only negative from N.C. State's run in Charleston was the injury to Tracy Smith, which could sideline the Wolfpack star for several weeks. Other than that, Wolfpack fans have to be encouraged by how its young team performed.

Many recent State teams have had excessively weak schedules, but that's not the case this year. The Wolfpack has already beaten ECU and George Mason and faced a stout Big East team in Georgetown. Ahead at games at Wisconsin (Dec. 1), Syracuse (Dec. 4) and home to Arizona (Dec. 19).

What State learned against the Hoyas will only help. Georgetown was picked for fourth in the 16-team Big East, and the Hoyas used their talent and muscle to flatten State in the second. But the young Wolfpack got to learn those lessons early, which will help with tougher games ahead. Running Pfeiffer out of Reynolds Coliseum can only teach you so much - at some point, you've got to play with the big kids.

There are some cupcakes ahead - Fairleigh Dickinson is next, with USC-Upstate, Youngstown State, Delaware State and Alabama A&M also ahead. But at least the Wolfpack is mixing in some strong opponents with weaker ones, a schedule that should prepare this team for ACC play.

You can often tell what coaches think of their teams by the schedule they set. If coaches expect to be done, they schedule weak rivals to pad their wins. If they think they have a chance for success, they ratchet up the schedule to prepare for league play and hike their RPI. This schedule looks like a smart one for State, which anticipated a chance to move up in the ACC and set a schedule to do that.

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