NC State is No. 1 in the ACC, again — and should be in the NCAA tournament as well

Luke DeCock
·3 min read

Now give ‘em a 1 seed.

What more do you want from N.C. State? What more does the Wolfpack have to prove?

There may be a better women’s basketball team in the country, but there sure aren’t four of them.

After back-to-back comebacks in Greensboro this weekend to secure back-to-back ACC champioinships, N.C. State has done everything asked of it and more. Louisville may have won the regular-season championship, but the Cardinals can’t beat N.C. State. Sunday’s 58-56 win was the Wolfpack’s second over top-seeded Louisville this season, the first last month when the Cardinals were the No. 1 team in the country.

Throw in the December win at then-No. 1 South Carolina, and N.C. State has proven it’s not only better than anyone in the ACC, it’s as good as anyone in the country. That there’s even any debate over whether the Wolfpack will get a No. 1 seed because N.C. State ranked 8th in the NET going into Sunday suggests the system is flawed at its heart. If N.C. State should have been on the top line in the preliminary bracket three weeks ago — the Wolfpack was somehow ranked sixth behind two teams it had already beaten -- there shouldn’t be a shadow of a doubt now.

Resilient, focused and unflappable, the Wolfpack has been at its best just when everything seemed to be falling apart around it. N.C. State came back from a 10-point fourth-quarter deficit to beat Georgia Tech in the semifinals Saturday and led for all of 24 seconds in Sunday’s fourth quarter before Raina Perez hit the game-winner with 2.1 seconds to play.

Even that was fraught with peril. First, with the score tied at 56, the Wolfpack had to stop two-time ACC player of the year Dana Evans, successfully forcing the Louisville guard to dribble into a cul de sac and throw up an off-balance layup that had no chance.

That left N.C. State 20 seconds to conjure some magic, and it very nearly did not. Perez had the ball on what was supposed to be a pick-and-roll with Wolfpack star Elissa Cunane, but Cunane was unable to get down the lane, leaving Perez standing alone with the ball on the left wing.

Almost with a shrug, Perez took the last shot. And nailed it.

Evans had one last shot, but her 3-point prayer at the buzzer hit back rim, and for the second time in a year the Wolfpack celebrated on the Greensboro Coliseum floor. The ladders and scissors looked familiar as the Wolfpack cut down the nets, the masks and far fewer fans did not. A new ACC commissioner, Jim Phillips, did the honors in his first public appearance after taking over for John Swofford.

It’s been a long year, to say the least, and so much has changed since then, but the best women’s team in the ACC has not. The Wolfpack has taken on the best and beaten the best. A year after N.C. State didn’t get a chance to prove itself, it’s ready to do it again. As a No. 1 seed in San Antonio, if anyone’s paying attention.