An N.C. State fan was in the gym Friday morning.
I respect the guy too much to walk up and say, “Hey, did you see the game Thursday?”
But I don’t respect him so much that I don’t walk up and say, “I won’t even ask you about the game Thursday.”
By doing it my way, I am courteous and respectful and, well, professional. Yet I still attain my objective, which is to make him feel bad about the travails of his beloved Wolfpack. And it has nothing to do with the Wolfpack. It’s the principle. I deal in principle except when it’s inconvenient.
Thursday’s first session, Wake Forest-Florida State and N.C. State-Miami, might have been the worst opening session, and the worst back-to-back games, in ACC men’s basketball tournament history. You can say that bad basketball is inevitable because of all the bottom-feeding teams that populate the first round.
But last season in the opening round Florida State beat Clemson 67-66 and Miami beat Maryland 67-62. In the evening session N.C. State beat Duke 85-80 and in double overtime Wake Forest beat Georgia Tech 114-112.
Last season, the Wolfpack was the story of the tournament. After the Duke victory, N.C. State beat Virginia and Virginia Tech to make the final. Where N.C. State coach Sidney Lowe went wrong this season was benching one of last season’s stars, junior Ben McCauley, in this season’s opener. He did this to accommodate freshman J.J. Hickson. McCauley would play only 14 minutes to Hickson’s 30.
You don’t treat upperclassmen that way. It was their team. They were the ones that made it special. To push a veteran to the bench in the very first game, especially one as unselfish and as fundamentally sound as McCauley, was a mistake from which N.C. State never recovered.