Wes Moore had moments of trepidation about whether his third-ranked North Carolina State team was just waiting for the NCAA Tournament.
The Atlantic Coast Conference Coach of the Year isn’t doing it anymore, with the Wolfpack aiming to follow the program’s first league regular season title in 32 years with a third consecutive ACC Tournament title this week. .
“We’ve got momentum, we’re playing pretty well,” Moore said, adding, “You don’t want a hiccup or a bump in the road right now.”
NC State (26-3, 17-1) headlines a field that includes No. 4 Louisville, No. 16 North Carolina, No. 20 Notre Dame, No. 21 Virginia Tech and No. 25 Georgia Tech. First-round games begin Wednesday, while the Wolfpack, Cardinals, Fighting Irish and Tar Heels have byes to Friday’s quarterfinals.
The preseason favorite Wolfpack fired the top eight scorers of a team that earned the program’s first No. 1 seed in the NCAA before stumbling in the Sweet 16. That memory stuck, with Fifth-year senior Kayla Jones said in October the goal “must be bigger” than winning another ACC tournament and that she was “tired of going to the Sweet 16”.
“I was worried about that during the certain season: are we only waiting for March?” said Moore. “Especially towards the end of January and beginning of February, we were just grinding the moves. But now I have seen real enthusiasm in practice. I saw more concentration in the preparation.
Jeff Walz’s Cardinals (25-3, 16-2) had held the No. 1 seed for the past two years, falling to NC State in last year’s title game.
Louisville lost the only match this year with the Wolfpack and narrowly lost to UNC February 17. But the Cardinals have won their last three games, ending with Sunday’s landslide victory at Notre-Dame which saw the Cardinals lead 41-3.
“Our attention to detail has been much better,” Walz said. “We really didn’t do a very good job in this North Carolina game of following the scout. … Like we said from day one, we’re not the type of team that can just throw the basketballs around, play 5-on-5 and expect to beat people. We are very detail-oriented, and I think it shows” at Notre Dame.
A few other things to know about this week’s ACC Tournament in Greensboro, North Carolina:
RESPONSE OF OUR LADY
The third-seeded Fighting Irish (21-7, 13-5) handed North Carolina State its only league defeat but lost three of six – two being blowouts against Louisville.
“I feel like when you play against a team like NC State, Louisville, pretty much every team in the ACC, you have to raise your level and you have to learn how to compete,” coach Niele said. Ivey. “You have to compete defensively. And that’s what we’re going to be working towards this week.
CLIMBING THE TAR HEELS
The fourth-seeded Tar Heels (23-5, 13-5) have their highest win total since winning 26 games in 2015. Third-year coach Courtney Banghart, who is aiming for her first tournament victory, hopes the Tar Heels close. also on hosting NCAA home openers.
“I don’t know how you leave us out of this, to be honest,” Banghart said. “We’re just going to continue to focus on one game at a time and believe that the people making the decisions do it in a thoughtful way.”
THE LUCK OF THE HOKIES
The Hokies (21-8, 13-5) finished tied at three for third behind ACC Player of the Year Elizabeth Kitley Inside, but Sunday’s loss to NC State dropped them to 5th place. They join the sixth-seeded Yellow Jackets as the top teams play Thursday.
Virginia Tech has never reached the ACC Semifinals since joining the league for the 2004-05 season.
ESPN’s latest projection has the league with eight offers from the NCAA on Tuesday morning, including No. 7 seed Miami and No. 8 seed Boston College on the right side of the bubble.
But ninth-seeded Florida State and 10th-seeded Duke could use wins at Greensboro.
Sue Semrau’s Seminoles (16-12, 10-8, No. 50 NET) are listed among ESPN’s top four teams outside the 68-team field. They opened play against British Columbia on Thursday.
Kara Lawson’s Blue Devils (16-12, 7-11, No. 53 NET) spent eight weeks in the AP Top 25 and peaked at No. 15, but lost five of six with four at least 13 points.
Play begins Wednesday with 12th-seeded Syracuse facing 13th-seeded Clemson, followed by the Blue Devils facing 15-seeded Pittsburgh and 11th-seeded Wake Forest facing 14th-seeded Virginia. series.
Follow Aaron Beard on Twitter at http://www.twitter.com/aaronbeardap
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