|Rank and Records||NCST||GT|
|Strength of Schedule||#82||#72|
|RPI Top 50||2-8||1-5|
Recap from the game in Raleigh.
It took Lowe-vertime to seal the deal in Raleigh back in January, but the Pack notched its first ACC victory of the year by staging a late-game rally to get to the bonus period.
Looking at the Four Factors chart above, you can see a Tech team that continues to slide further and further into their own muck. Effective FG percentage has been on a steady two-month decline, as have the offensive rebounding and free throw rates. That, along with an increasing turnover percentage, is just not how you conclude your season.
Without diverting too far from the game preview, it just seems tough to see how Hewitt will keep his employment up after next season. Derrick Favors has bought him one more year, but he'll be gone soon enough and I can't fathom that his presence will improve the Jackets enough to provide a secondary-recruiting bump large enough to further extend Hewitt's employment. Anything's possible, but as we saw how interjecting a star one-and-done-er can sometimes go wrong, the odds are stacked against Hewitt in 2010.
But that's neither here nor there with regards to Saturday's game.
It's this week's version of The Biggest Game Of The Season. The win against Wake Forest on Wednesday (that 10 years from now 35,000 people will claim to have witnessed in person) was a huge shot in the arm for a team looking to bounce back against a horrible loss against Virginia Tech on Sunday. Had State lost against Wake, the Georgia Tech game would be largely inconsequential, and outside of some pockets of extreme optimism, it still only matters in the sense that we could play ourselves into a better ACC Tournament seed and avoid missing out on the Big 10/ACC
This game is also huge from a team growth standpoint because it's a conference road game against team State should beat. The Pack seems to have little difficulty getting up for big games at home, but sealing the deal on the road is another matter. It's also an opportunity to avoid playing down to an opponent. If the Pack can get on the gas, stay on it and KEEP on it for 40 minutes, the mental rewards for this team would be immense.
But the very reason State stands to gain so much is the very reason I'm worried. When the chips have been down with something to LOSE, not GAIN (as they were in the Wake game), the Pack has struggled.
The usual areas of concern apply: turnovers, rebounding, guard play, 40 minutes of solid basketball. The record's been skipping so long now that there are divots in the wax. Atlanta's a tough place to play, and this will be State's most challenging -- but potentially most rewarding -- game of the year.
*Thanks to Mike and Zac for keeping this sloppy writer in check.