North Carolina State Gets NCAA Tournament Bid, Then Celebrates Like It Won the National ChampionshipMarch 13, 2012 – 10:45 am by Eric Schmoldt
Watching the NCAA tournament selection show, there’s nothing worse than seeing a team set up with a camera in their room that has their name called and then they barely celebrate. Thank goodness for teams like North Carolina State. The Wolfpack made up for every other lame team by going absolutely nuts when their name was called during the final matchup announced on Sunday.
Mark Gottfried’s team entered the conference tournament week squarely on the bubble, but went on a nice run and had a good shot at beating North Carolina in the ACC semifinals. Now they’ll open the tournament as a No. 11 seed taking on San Diego State and hoping to keep their momentum going.
Mark Gottfried joined XX Sports Radio in San Diego with Darren Smith to discuss what it was like sitting through the selection, how nervous he was, playing the final weeks on the bubble, if he started trying to play politics to get his team in, basketball in the state of North Carolina and taking on San Diego State to open the tournament.
What was it like to sit through the selection show before your team finally came up?:
“That was a gut-wrencher, and there was a lot of drama by our players. They were very excited. They’ve worked hard. We knew we were one of those bubble teams and we were running out of spots. When the name came on the board, our guys had a lot of fun with that.”
How nervous were you?:
“I was very nervous. At the same time, I remember Virginia going on the board as a 10 seed. I kept thinking, ‘We’ve got to be in the tournament.’ We had the same league record, a much better strength of schedule and just beat them in the ACC tournament. In the back of my mind, I just felt it was going to happen. But then you’re down to one spot. It was an 11 seed, which is probably where we were going to be, so we were hoping and it worked out.”
What was it like going into the ACC tournament knowing you were probably on the bubble?:
“Oh they know, they know what’s happening. They’re watching TV and listening. What you’re trying to do as a coaching staff is to keep them on target as far as you can’t get too caught up in all that. But it’s real. We were a team that really needed to play well late. We played such a tough schedule, but we came up short a lot. … We’ve played pretty good basketball here late in the year and that was the difference.”
Do you just go out and play the games or can you start playing politics when you’re on the bubble?:
“We all try to do that a little bit, quite frankly. But I don’t know, with the committee, that that carries much weight. I think the committee, they’re so thorough, they do their homework and their watching games all year long and they study teams. … I don’t know that [politics] has a lot to do with it. You’ve got to play your way in. That’s one thing we kept telling our guys. You earn the right to play and you’ve got to step up and get it done. Our backs were against the wall and we responded, so our players should feel good about that.”
On the state of North Carolina being different than most these days where basketball reigns over football:
“Football is important, but it’s nowhere near what happens with basketball. It’s a whole other level. On Tobacco Road, with Duke, with North Carolina, with NC State, you’re talking about national championships. … In this area, you read a newspaper in the middle of June, you’re liable to see an eight- to 12-inch color picture of a basketball summer league. It’s basketball and it’s fun because it counts. Now, the bar is raised pretty high here, too. The expectation here is to play at a high, high level, but I’d rather be where people care than where they don’t.”
Is there any chance your guys would overlook San Diego State since you guys come out of the ACC?:
“Absolutely not. We’re in no position. You saw the video. Our guys were flying all over when we got in. We’re happy as ever to get selected. … It’s the greatest show on Earth. There’s no way we’re in a position to do that kind of stuff. And as the 11 seed, you know, we’ve got a lot of respect. They’ve earned the right to be a six seed, maybe should’ve been higher than a six seed, so we’ve got a tall order here.”