They were the last team to have their name called but when the brackets were all filled out and the field was finalized, North Carolina State was in the NCAA Tournament.
“It was torture,” said Wolfpack head coach Mark Gottfried. “The room erupted.”
NC State (22-12, 9-7 ACC) was not the last team to make the field, but they were the last team to learn their fate – a No. 11 seed in the Midwest Region. When it came down to earning an at-large bid, Gottfried said that his difficult schedule was the difference.
“Our strength of schedule became something that helped us,” Gottfried said.” When I took this job and I wanted to make our schedule harder, Debbie Yow was very supportive. She was nervous, but very supportive. We had to buy our way out of contracts and get ourselves into some other contracts so we had to spend some money. I think that was the difference.”
The Wolfpack were standing at the door of the dance in recent weeks, unsure if they would be handed an invitation. Following a battle against North Carolina Saturday in the semifinals of the ACC Tournament, they got a resounding nomination.
“If I was on the committee, I would fight very hard for NC State to be in,” said UNC head coach Roy Williams.
The committee agreed and rewarded NC State with a trip to Columbus where they will play No. 6 San Diego State (26-7, 10-4 Mountain West) on Friday.
The Wolfpack take on San Diego State University on TruTV Friday afternoon at 12:30 p.m.
Both the Tar Heels and Blue Devils stay close to home at Greensboro Coliseum.
The Tar Heels earned the top seed in the Midwest region, but they must still await the result of a play-in game between Vermont and Lamar on Wednesday. They face the winner of Lamar/Vermont, with a tip time about 4 p.m. on TBS.
“We are extremely disappointed that we lost to Florida State today and did not win the ACC Tournament, but we are also extremely pleased that the NCAA selection committee felt we deserved a number one seed,” UNC head coach Roy Williams said. “Everyone talks about playing well for three weeks but you have to play well in each and every game to advance. We look forward to getting started.”
Duke, the No. 2 in the South, faces Lehigh (15) at 7:15 p.m. on WRAL-TV.
The committee said that Duke (27-6, 13-3 ACC) was the field’s sixth best team and compensated them with a No. 2 seed in the South Region. If the top seeds are to go by chalk in that section of the bracket, Duke would take on the overall No. 1 Kentucky in an elite eight game in Atlanta.
Before that is possible, the Blue Devils must get three wins starting with No. 15 Lehigh (26-7, 11-3) out of the Patriot League.
In all, 31 states are represented by a school in the field with North Carolina leading the way with five. Joining UNC, Duke and NC State are UNC-Asheville who earned a No. 16 seed in the East by virtue of winning the Big South Conference and Davidson, who won the SoCon and were rewarded with a No. 13 seed in the South.
UNC-Asheville will play Syracuse, while Davidson drew Louisville.
The ACC claimed five bids in the field. Virginia earned a No. 10 seed in the West where they will open against Florida. Florida State’s ACC Tournament win helped then claim a No. 3 seed and a second-round opponent of St. Bonaventure.
While it will be first tournament appearance for NC State since 2006, Gottfried is confident that this year, the Wolfpack are capable of a run with the mainstays.
“I am very, very proud of our guys,” Gottfried said. “I just think they have accomplished so much this year and they have earned their way in. The way we are playing right now, the guys know they can play with anybody in the country.”