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N.C. State has exceeded expectations for the 2017-18 men’s basketball season. Now it is time to see just how far the Wolfpack can go.
Kevin Keatts wants his players to be willing to adjust their goals on the fly. The first-year head coach spoke to his team following the Wolfpack’s Saturday home loss to North Carolina and his message was simple: The Pack is not who people once thought they would be.
“My message to the (players) is that we have become a very good basketball team,” Keatts said Saturday. “You don’t accidentally beat the likes of Arizona, Duke, Carolina and Clemson the way they are playing this year. My message to those guys moving forward is you have to now figure out now how not to beat yourself up.”
It is not the easiest message to convey at times, especially after a home loss to a rival.
UNC forward Luke Maye torched N.C. State for 33 points and 17 rebounds, with 25 of his points and 11 of his boards coming in a sizzling second half where the Tar Heels shot 25-of-33 (78.1 percent) from the floor, rebounded five of their seven misses and scored on 29-of-30 possessions overall.
“He played phenomenal,” Abdul-Malik Abu said of Maye. “That’s the second time he’s played well against us. I’m just praying we get to see him again, but kudos to him. He played great and with heart and energy.”
The upcoming week could be critical for N.C. State’s postseason hopes.
The Pack faces Syracuse Wednesday evening in the first of two Atlantic Coast Conference road games. Following the trip to the Carrier Dome there is the annual visit to Winston-Salem to face Wake Forest, a contest that N.C. State (16-9, 6-6 ACC) has lost in each of the last five seasons.
“Our expectations coming to the season from everyone outside of our program were pretty much low, obviously being picked 12th (in the ACC),” Keatts said. “Now we have put ourselves in a situation where were playing some of the top teams in the country and we’re right there to win the games. Now I have to get these guys to change their expectations.
“I don’t want to get to the point where they’re satisfied with how many wins that we’ve won right now. Now we have to figure out when you look at us were scoring against everybody now we have to figure now where do we go from here.”
While there is conjecture among fans and media as to whether the Wolfpack can make the NCAA tournament, the approach within the team is clear.
Keatts will not allow what may happen in March to impact his team in February, which leading up to the ACC tournament are the only contests that his team is promised.
“We are not even talking about postseason at this moment,” Keatts said. “Our focus is to be on Syracuse. We know that we have six games remaining in our regular season and, obviously, we have got to start with the first one that is front of us.”
2018 SIGNINGS COMPLETED
Dave Doeren and his staff completed the 2018 football signing class last week with the addition of four more players. The quartet includes a transfer from Southern California, a junior college player, a former Duke commit and a defensive tackle who seemed poised to flip his commitment away from N.C. State at the last minute.
Cary Angeline is a 6-foot-7, 245-pound tight end from Exton, Pennsylvania, who originally signed with USC in the class of 2016. He redshirted his first season with the Trojans and then decided last year that he preferred to be closer to home. The Wolfpack will hope he can help offset the loss of Jaylen Samuels and Cole Cook to graduation.
With four senior defensive line starters, N.C. State was always going to need to add depth at the position in the 2018 class. The Wolfpack may have a key component in Val Martin, a junior college transfer who will have three seasons of eligibility remaining when he enrolls at N.C. State. He is a 6-2, 290-pound defensive tackle who spent the last two seasons at Iowa Western Community College and was recruited late in the game, having received his offer only recently while on an official visit to Washington State.
Taiyon Palmer is heading to the Triangle to play ACC football, but not at the school he originally thought.
After decommitting from Duke and opening up his recruitment, N.C. State landed the prized cornerback from Lawrenceville, Georgia. A four-star recruit according to ESPN and 247Sports, Palmer excelled at the Nike Opening, where he ran a 4.58 40-yard dash along with a 4.27 shuttle.
After delaying his signing and then making a late official visit to Notre Dame, it looked N.C. State may have lost out on Derrick Eason. The 6-4, 255-pound defensive tackle from Norview, Virginia, held offers from home state schools Virginia and Virginia Tech along with North Carolina, East Carolina and the Irish.
Eason, a three-star athlete according to Rivals, eschewed the late offer from Notre Dame and announced his decision in a ceremony at Norview High School. He earned the Virginia Region 5-A Defensive Player of the Year honor after finishing with 15 tackles for loss, nine sacks and two fumble recoveries in 2017.