ACC Tourney a Possible Redemption Tour for State Women
The ACC women’s basketball tournament isn’t just an opportunity for NC State to win its first conference championship since 1991. It’s also a chance for coach Wes Moore’s 10th-ranked team to settle a few debts.
Though it’s still undetermined who the Wolfpack will play, starting with a quarterfinal game at Greensboro Coliseum on Friday at 6 p.m., there’s a possibility the road to the title could take it through three of the four teams to which it lost during the regular season.
“I would like to say that it is less revenge and more redemption,” said senior guard Aislinn Konig, a second-team All-ACC selection. “I think that we didn’t play up to our capacity in those games, and we missed out on big opportunities to get those wins. I would see it as redemption and really being able to show who we are.”
State’s four losses came at the hands of ACC rivals North Carolina on Jan. 9, regular season champion Louisville on Feb. 13, Georgia Tech on Feb. 15 and Duke on Feb. 24.
The Wolfpack (25-4) has already paid the rival Tar Heels back by winning the return match at Reynolds Coliseum on Jan. 26.
If seedings hold and it's able to keep winning, State could potentially play the other three teams on successive days in Greensboro -- the seventh-seeded Yellow Jackets on Friday, the No. 5 Blue Devils on Saturday and the top-seeded Cardinals in Sunday’s tournament final.
Of course, things don’t always work out the way they’re supposed to in the postseason, which is why Moore isn’t wasting any of his team’s preparation time looking ahead to matchups would might not happen.
“I think there’s a team over there called Notre Dame that plays,” Moore said. “Then who the heck does Duke play? Miami got (injured preseason ACC Player of the Year Beatrice) Mompremier back. You can’t look that far ahead.
“We’ll focus on our first game. We don’t even know who that’s going to be yet. We’ll try to do some things in practice that will prepare us for any number of opponents. Until we find out for sure, we can’t do a whole lot of planning. … Until we know for sure it’s just kind of general preparation.”
No. 15 Pittsburgh upset 10th-seeded Notre Dame 67-65 in an opening round game Wednesday to earn a second round game against Georgia Tech on Thursday. The Wolfpack will play the winner.
While Moore is firmly locked into the “one game at a time” mentality needed for a postseason stretch in which one loss will send a team home, his players are more inclined to venture an advance look at what the bracket might hold.
They would especially like another crack at Louisville, a team that beat the then-No. 4 Wolfpack 66-59 at a sold out Reynolds Coliseum on a night in which State squandered a chance to take charge of the ACC regular season race.
All-ACC center Elissa Cunane had a tough time in that game, making only one field goal while the rest of the team combined to miss 12 of its first 13 three-point attempts against the more physical Cardinals.
“I believe that’s what we messed up the first time playing Louisville,” junior forward Kayla Jones said. “We settled a lot, especially in the first half. We got behind.
“This time we want to actually attack them, make them guard us and make them get into foul trouble, hopefully. The whole game plan has got to change. We’ve got to learn from what we did last game and take it in, most willing to play them in the championship.”
As much as Jones and her teammates would like to see that happen, they know better than to take anything for granted come tournament time.
“We know that it’s going to be a dogfight,” she said. “We know we’ve got to go in hard. Whatever team we play, we know that they’re going to give us their best shot. We have to give them ours.”
(Video contributed by Jacob Turner)