Inside NC State's plan to bump UNC out of the ACC tournament
ATLANTA -- When North Carolina State beat Virginia 67-74 in the ACC quarterfinals Friday, Mark Gottfried and his staff had less than 21 hours to prepare for No. 4 North Carolina and play itself off the NCAA bubble. Here's an inside look at the Wolfpack's preparation:
The topics center mostly around Kendall Marshall and Tyler Zeller. Marshall's increase in scoring is a worry, because NC State wants to double off the point guard to help with Carolina's big men. The staff debates whether they should stay with Marshall and double the low post with another big man. Lutz throws out the suggestion of using a box-and-one on Marshall to keep the ball out of his hands. The concern with Zeller is his ability to run the floor. Can NC State take a charge on him? Getting Zeller in foul trouble, especially with fellow big man John Henson questionable with a sprained wrist, is paramount for NC State to pull the upset.
"Transition and rebounding are the two musts tomorrow," says Lutz, who is the primary assistant on every scouting preparation.
Gottfried is taking notes in pencil, making bullet points he will use to address the team after an 8 p.m. dinner. "Mentally, we have to shift gears," he says. "This is great, but we came here to win this tourney."
The talk then turns to the bubble for the final 10 minutes of the meeting, with discussions ranging from Washington to Seton Hall to Oral Roberts to South Florida. "Temple lost. That's not good," said Lutz.
Gottfried turns up the volume when the NC State highlights appear, then the room gets a good laugh to close the meeting when Gottfried's shoutout to Lunardi is replayed.
Gottfried goes over the main bullet points developed in his coaches meeting -- the importance of transition and rebounding, the approach to defending Marshall, Henson's questionable status, plus mistakes that were made in the last Carolina matchup -- an 86-74 UNC win. "We tied the game in the second half, and within three seconds [Reggie] Bullock came down and hit a three. You cannot celebrate at all against these guys."
Gottfried closes the 20-minute talk with a message for them to remember: "North Carolina saw us play today, and I guarantee they're not sure what to do about us. We're dangerous, and they know it."
The final emphasis is for NC State's big men to turn and attack Zeller, Henson and McAdoo when they get the ball in the low post. "We're quicker," he says. "We can attack."
A shot of Leslie turning to face Zeller appears, and somewhere in the room a 'See ya' is heard. Leslie blows by Zeller for a dunk, and the room has a good laugh. That's Gottfried's final clip. There will be time for a final pep talk at the arena. "Buses at 11:35," he says, and the players head back to their rooms.
In the second half, NC State builds a 46-39 lead as the big men are on the attack, but then the offense goes into a six-minute drought. Carolina re-takes the lead, then Leslie picks up his fourth and fifth fouls within 32 seconds, leaving the game with NC State trailing 58-52 with 8:03 to play. Improbably, NC State comes back with the same game plan, attacking inside with Richard Howell and DeShawn Painter. Ultimately, the game comes down to the final minute, when Marshall avoids a potential charge and hits a short bank shot with 10 seconds to play to give UNC a 69-67 lead. Wood tries to feed Painter in the lane with five seconds left, but Justin Watts breaks it up and saves the game for Carolina.