|N.C. State coach Mark Gottfried says teams who make NCAA tournament will earn their way in. He thinks the Wolfpack needs 11 ACC wins to accomplish that. Ethan Hyman photo.|
Gottfried, who took Murray State and Alabama to the NCAA tournament seven times in 14 seasons and worked as an analyst for ESPN the last two seasons, has a firm grasp on the process and the selection committee's criteria.
At No. 49 in the most recent official RPI on the NCAA's web site, the Wolfpack is in bubble territory as it begins ACC play on Sunday against Maryland.
"The teams that go to the tournament are going to earn their way in," Gottfried said.
Gottfried thinks N.C. State will need to win 11 ACC games to get into the tournament but correctly pointed out that conference record is not a critical factor to the selection committee.
"If you get to 12 or 13 wins in the league, you could have played 15 games against Broughton High School, you're probably in," Gottfried joked.
Gottfried said N.C. State's strength of schedule will help its NCAA cause come March, assuming it can win its share of ACC games.
The NCAA's version of the RPI doesn't list N.C. State's strength of schedule but Jerry Palm, of CollegeRPI.com, does and has the Wolfpack's schedule at 36th.
"The (selection committee) will look at who you chose to play in those 13 to 15 non-league games and how you did in those games," Gottfried said. "We intentionally upgraded our schedule, hopefully that will help us at some point in time."
Improving the SOS has been a point of emphasis for Gottfried, whose early teams at Alabama were left out of the NCAA tournament because of shoddy out-of-league schedules. Even losses to Syracuse (No. 1 in the official RPI), Indiana (15) and Vanderbilt (32) will help the Wolfpack.
Finding wins in the ACC against top 50 RPI teams -- Duke (2), North Carolina (12) and Virginia Tech (40) -- and top 100 teams -- Miami (61), Virginia (65), Florida State (71), Wake Forest (85) -- will ultimately determine the Pack's postseason fate.
N.C. State hasn't been to the NCAA tournament since 2006, which is the longest drought in the ACC.
"We could have helped ourselves a couple of nights," Gottfried said. "There's no question, but I think with the strength of schedule and who we played, I think we're going to put ourselves in a great position -- if we're fortunate enough to be in the discussion."
-- J.P. Giglio