Get inside March Madness with SI.com's Luke Winn in the Tourney Blog, a daily journal of college basketball commentary, on-site reporting and reader-driven discussions.
3/10/2007 09:39:00 PM
Whatever You Do, Don't Get Punked
Sindey Lowe has his Wolfpack one more upset away from an NCAA berth.
TAMPA, Fla. -- Sidney Lowe's Red Coat Express cannot be stopped in the ACC tournament. First an upset of Duke on Thursday. Then Virginia on Friday. And now Saturday's magic, a 72-64 win over Virginia Tech. On what would have been the 61st birthday of late N.C. State coach Jim Valvano, Lowe -- a player on Jimmy V's 1983 national championship team -- has piloted the 10th-seeded Wolfpack to within one win of an automatic NCAA tournament bid. And the fact that he's done it while wearing a red blazer straight out of the Valvano wardrobe, well, that's only made it more special for the N.C. State family.
As heartwarming as this story is -- an 18-14 team making an improbable run in March with historic implications -- it's undoubtedly driving fans of Illinois, Stanford, Drexel, Kansas State, Purdue and Texas Tech nuts. Why? Because Lowe's Wolfpack are on the verge of singlehandedly shrinking the NCAA tournament bubble. Sunday's ACC final is suddenly full of intrigue, with Carolina fighting for a No. 1 seed in the dance and N.C. State potentially playing spoiler for a host of at-large candidates.
Ultimately, what may stick with me the longest from the Wolfpack's run is not the red-coat craze, but rather the pregame speech Lowe gave his team at the outset of the ACC tournament. As much as the first-year coach is willing to talk about the Valvano stuff -- "The way we're doing it right now is very similar to what our fans saw in 1983," Lowe said -- he's not into quoting the guy. Needless to say, the words Don't ever give up have yet to find their way into Lowe's motivational arsenal.
Instead, junior guard Gavin Grant said this was the message Lowe gave the team in its Thursday-morning meeting before taking on the Blue Devils:
Don't let anybody come out and punk you. Don't let anybody push you around. It's a basketball game. What's the worst that can happen? You aren't going to get in any fights.
Even if N.C. State doesn't make the Dance -- and I get the feeling it won't, since the ACC final with be its fourth game in four days, and it's against the deepest team in the country -- I think that Lowe's rhetoric has legs. If I'm a coach of a potential Cinderella in the NCAA tournament, I'd crib from Sid. No modern-day player wants to get punked. And if the runts on some No. 16 seed are reminded that they won't literally get their asses kicked by a No. 1, well, who knows what could happen?