NC State Beat: This Is Our Time

The separation between a good team and a championship caliber team is fairly slim. In fact, there are just a handful of intangibles the truly great teams possess that cause them to stand out among the rest. We see it each and every year, in each and every sport. A team with a ton of talent, and unbelievable potential, just can’t seem to get it done when it counts.

The main differences between good and better teams comes down to their ability to overcome. The ability to take an opponent’s best shot, and eventually put them away. The ability to not allow a tightly or poorly officiated game to bother you. The ability to, at the end of the day, just find a way to win. NC State hasn’t had any of those qualities, consistently, in a long, long time.

As we all know, throughout November NC State struggled. They were not the top-10 team they were predicted to be, and honestly, not even worthy of the top-25. They didn’t react well when a team threw everything at them. They didn’t react well when the calls weren’t going their way. It was obvious how much talent their was, yet pieces just weren’t fitting together and working as one cohesive unit.

Then came December, and now into January. Something is beginning to change within the Pack. It hasn’t happened immediately. In fact, at times, it hasn’t seemed to be happening at all. And it certainly is not a completed product. But play-by-play, game-by-game, NC State has begun to figure out what it takes to not just be good, but to be one of the best. Veterans are playing their games, and freshman, who still have a long way to go, are fitting perfectly into the role that makes this team so much better.

It’s a almost a dream come true for a fan, like myself, who has only been able to dream of a team that this one is on the verge of becoming.

NC State has been a punchline, so to speak, for a while now. Whether it be Herb Sendek’s resignation, Sidney Lowe’s red jacket, or even a little poetry from CJ Leslie. Whatever the case may be, State hasn’t warranted much respect from rivals, or the nation, in quiet some time.

But the times, they are changing.

NC State is becoming a team that is hunted, not hunting. It is a different feeling, and requires a completely different mindset. It is a situation that State certainly didn’t handle well in the beginning of the year, but may now be just about ready to take on the challenge.

The first stop along the way of accepting that challenge will happen Saturday, when number one Duke takes the short bus ride over to PNC Arena.

It will be a weird dynamic. State will feel like they are doing the hunting, considering Duke is number one in the country and are one of the “big dogs” on the block. Meanwhile, Duke will feel like they are hunting because they were predicted to finish behind State in the preseason polls. With both teams on the prowl, it will be an intense game. A game that could restore the once fierce rivalry.

NC State has not beaten Duke since January 20, 2010, and have only beaten the Blue Devils twice in the past ten meetings between the teams. That shouldn’t shock anyone: It hasn’t been much of a secret that NC State has been down for, well, ever.

But this is our time.

This is a moment NC State fans have longed for. This is a moment that will define NC State in 2013. Losing this game will not completely sink the ship, but winning this game will do more for State than almost any one game over the past twenty or so years. This is the reason CJ Leslie decided to come back for his junior season. This is the reason three McDonald’s All-Americans came to NC State. This is what we live for.

The best part about the ACC is that no one is handed a trophy at the end of the season. In the ACC, you have to go through the gauntlet, and you better be ready to play each and every night. The first week of the season showed NC State that. Both Boston College and Georgia Tech gave State all they wanted, but in the end, the Pack did what great teams do, they overcame. Against Boston College, they overcame a feisty team, and 72 free throws. Against Georgia Tech, they overcame questionable, at best, officiating, as well as everything Tech could throw at them. But at the end of the day NC State stood on top. They found a way to overcome and survive the first portion of the gauntlet.

Now, the competition gets tougher. Duke is number one, and undefeated for a reason. They may be without Ryan Kelly, but they are still a great, great team. But NC State isn’t bad. In fact, I’m willing to say that talent wise, Duke isn’t better than State. The only thing that makes them better is what I talked about earlier. Their ability to overcome, and find a way to win. Luckily, NC State may just have figured out how to do that as well.

To win this game there are a few things that must happen for State. However, the most important thing that must happen for State is that the four veteran starters must show up. Big time players, make big time plays, in big time games. Richard Howell has to play 32-36 minutes. Lorenzo Brown has to manage the game, and be in attack mode as he has been as of late. Scott Wood must stretch the floor, and do what ever he can to get open looks.

And finally, Calvin Leslie just has to be Calvin Leslie. Leslie is going to be the most gifted athlete on the floor, and he must play like it. As I said, this is why he came back to NC State. Calvin grew up a NC State fan, and whether he has ever said it or not, he wants his jersey to hang in the rafters with the likes of Thompson, Burleson, Monroe, Corchiani, Gugliotta, and Hodge. Saturday at noon, Calvin Leslie can go along way towards making that dream a reality.

All in all, NC State has to do what they have do over the past nine games. Veterans must play their game, and the freshmen just need to fall into place and do what they do. It isn’t going to be easy, nothing worth doing ever is. But NC State is primed for a moment like this. The eyes of the nation will be on Raleigh at noon, waiting to see if NC State is ready to seriously challenge their Tobacco Road counterparts.

And whether or not anyone else wants to believe it, this is our time.

NC State blogger Spencer Hardison

Spencer Hardison has been writing about NC State athletics for over a year for various web sites, and has been talking about and passionately pulling for the Pack since the day he was born. He lives by the idea that numbers never lie, and firmly believes that defense wins championships. Spencer is one of the more opinionated and passionate people you will ever meet. Basically, he’ll argue with a wall, if said wall doesn’t agree with him. All in all, Spencer loves to be opinionated, make bold statements, and prove to everyone that he is right and they are wrong. Oh, and Taylor Swift has written three songs about him. You can find Spencer on Twitter at @SpencerHardison.

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