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NC State Basketball Takes a Huge Step Forward

It’s March 9th and Kevin Keatts and the Wolfpack have just lost to Pitt to close the season with a 4-game losing streak. There is visible distress on Keatts's face, and he seems somewhat resigned. The ACC tournament starts soon and with the loss, the Wolfpack is now the 10 seed. That means that to win the ACC tournament, they will have to win 5 games in 5 days, a feat that has never been done in the ACC. Things were looking bleak.

It’s March 10th and Wes Moore and the NC State women’s team just lost the ACC Championship game to Notre Dame after holding a lead late in the game. It’s a disappointing loss in what has been a very good season, but now they have to wait and see how it will affect their seeding in this NCAA tournament.

Both of the above scenarios cast a shadow on the respective programs, but it turns out that there was no need for concern. The season ended for both this past weekend, but making it to the final 4 Is a success in its own right. The unlikeliness of it happening for both was just off the charts and yet it did.

Of course, it would have been great to get a national championship, but NC State was a winner this weekend in so many ways. It's so satisfying to experience this much success in the same season, and it is the culmination of a lot of hard work and dedication by some pretty special people, and a much needed reward for long suffering fans.

The men's team became America’s sweetheart during the tournament and DJ Burns became a national sensation due to the exposure that the team received. Men's basketball hasn't been close to the same since Jim Valvano, and the national recognition just hasn't been present. This run has resuscitated the program to a new level of awareness. It has also recharged the fanbase and created an expectation that the program is back and is ready to be a prominent national player again. The resulting financial contributions and recruiting gains will help to make things even more competitive, and I think certainly it will entice significantly more interest from potential recruits. Winning the ACC Championship was an incredible thing, but the March to the final 4 in the same season was validating. NC State is no longer an afterthought in men's basketball. Success will be expected now, and it should be easier to achieve.

I think the question of whether Kevin Keatts can coach has finally been put to bed for good. The game plans during the postseason were spot on and the execution was solid. This magical journey will elevate Keatts to a new level of respect, and I think it will help the program tremendously. What he hasn't done particularly well is recruit, but I think what transpired this year will be particularly beneficial in getting the players that are needed to be consistently good year in and year out. Don't be surprised to see the Wolfpack in the top tier of the ACC!

I think it also brings the entire NC State community together and creates confidence that hasn't been seen in quite some time. Above that, however, it creates a strong sense of pride for all of Wolfpack nation, and that bleeds into other sports as well. It also allows loyal fans to celebrate and feel good about the future of NC State basketball.

On the women's side, this postseason will strengthen an already very strong program and will allow Wes Moore to put even better teams on the floor. This was his first final 4, and it has been a long time coming, but I think it will be a very real possibility every year now, as this has become one of the premier teams in women's college basketball. It also creates an awareness with the blossoming popularity of women's college basketball. It is a mainstream major college sport now, and it was a rapid evolution. The fact that NC State has strong name recognition in women's college basketball can only advance the narrative.

What NC State did this year in basketball is truly remarkable. I don't think anyone envisioned the success that both teams had, and certainly, no one expected the final 4 for both. It is historic, and it is a feeling that Wolfpack fans have been longing for for a long time. After so many years of frustration and exasperation, the check finally came in. The importance of this season certainly isn't lost on me, and certainly not on the fans from what I have seen. It's almost like a reset. Like when your phone or computer just can't seem to perform like they should, so you reboot them and they start performing as they were intended. That is NC State basketball this year, and it could not have come at a more appropriate time. The end result is avoiding a coaching search, and putting an end to the “we will get them next year “ mindset. This year has been cleansing and anxiety-reducing like never before. Things have become hopeful rather than desperate, and I'm talking about the men's team in this regard.

What is going to be crucial now is roster construction for next year. The pieces need to fit and those eligible to return need to be locked in. The men's team is off to a good start with the addition of Brandon Huntley-Hatfield from the portal, along with Paul McNeil And Trey Parker. If Kevin Keatts and the staff can hit a home run in the portal, next year could be very exciting. PNC arena should be energized from the very start of the season.

On the women's side, Wes Moore has an outstanding recruiting class coming in, and with the expected return of some key players, they should be in the mix again. Now that they have made it to the final 4, a national championship is a very real possibility. Never underestimate Wes Moore. Playing in Reynolds is also a big advantage given how loud it is. I'm excited to see them play this fall.

NC State basketball has undergone a transformation. Things feel into place, the stars aligned, and it was a beautiful thing to see. There is still work to be done, but they took a huge step forward this year. It feels like something has changed, and it's a good change. A very good change.



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