One week after erupting with joy at being the last team to hear its name called during last Sunday's NCAA tournament selection show, North Carolina State certainly hasn't wasted that opportunity.
The 11th-seeded Wolfpack followed up their minor upset of San Diego State by toppling third-seeded Georgetown 66-63 on Sunday to advance to their first Sweet 16 since 2005. They'll face either second-seeded Kansas or Purdue on Friday in Saint Louis.
"It has been a nice ride," first-year NC State coach Mark Gottfried told reporters after the game. "And the good thing about our team is I think they're a hungry bunch. They are hungry right now. I don't see a satisfied group at all in our locker room."
It's a testament to Gottfried that he has NC State making noise in March the year before his heralded 2012 recruiting class arrives.
Former NC State coach Sidney Lowe recruited some talented prospects to Raleigh during his four-year tenure, but he never molded them into a winning team, going a dreadful 19-45 in ACC play. Gottfried took those leftover spare parts and assembled a functional engine, one that is running far more smoothly in March than it did earlier in the season.
Although NC State failed to beat ACC contenders North Carolina, Duke or Florida State during the regular season, the Wolfpack showed late-season signs they could be dangerous in March if they slipped into the field. They led Duke by 20 at Cameron Indoor Stadium before collapsing, they beat Miami and Virginia leading up to Selection Sunday and they fell to North Carolina in the ACC tournament semifinals in part due to a disputed no-call on an apparent Kendall Marshall charge.
"I think one of the first things I said to coach Gottfried when I met him was, 'I don't want this to be a rebuilding year,'" guard Scott Wood told reporters in Sunday's postgame news conference. "I don't want to just play to get better. I think we've got the talent and the pieces that we could be a dominant team.
"You never think you're going to be this far from where you were last year. But I think we did a good job of coming together. Coach did a good job of putting in the system and gaining the trust of his players, and we just continued to get better."
If the key to NC State's win over San Diego State was its superior interior scoring, then the Wolfpack showed Sunday it can also win via their perimeter prowess. They sank 7 of 15 threes and attacked the rim off the dribble against Georgetown, sending the Hoyas to an NCAA tournament loss to a double-digit seed for the fourth straight year.
NC State's lead reached as many as 11 midway through the second half, but the Hoyas fought back thanks to nine straight points from Hollis Thompson and some untimely missed free throws from the Wolfpack. A deep Jason Clark 3-pointer that could have forced overtime instead was off the mark as time expired, clinching the NC State victory.
In his pregame speech in the NC State locker room, Gottfried tried to instill confidence in his players by telling them, "There's a plane waiting to take you to Saint Louis, there are hotel rooms waiting for you, there's a game waiting for you in Saint Louis."
Much to NC State's delight, Gottfried won't have to cancel those reservations.
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