Wolfpack Tangles With Temple
Jan. 25, 2002
By Tony Haynes
Raleigh, N.C.-Perhaps it's time for NC State to win the "Rodney Dangerfield Award." As the Wolfpack has continued to win basketball games through December and January, some Pack fans have been closely monitory the national polls. But to this point, their team has gotten little respect from the voters.
Now 15-4 overall and 5-2 in the ACC, NC State is in the midst of its best stretch of basketball in many years. Not only has the Wolfpack recorded big road games over national powerhouses like Virginia and Syracuse, it has also won five consecutive road games for the first time since the National Championship season of 1974. But still, the Pack hasn't done quite enough to earn a spot in the Top-25.
"To tell the truth, I don't really care about the rankings," said Wolfpack freshman Julius Hodge. "We know there are a couple of teams in there that we've won games against. But rankings don't really count to me because ever since high school I've been an underdog. If they want to keep us out of the rankings, that's perfectly fine with me. As long as we keep playing well and getting big wins on our resume', when it's time for NCAA Tournament play we should be in pretty good shape."
And just maybe being ranked isn't what it's all cut out to be anyway. Take for instance the team NC State will face off against at the ESA at noon on Saturday. At the beginning of the year, Temple was ranked 16th in the AP poll. But then came the usual murderous early season schedule that included games against Florida, Maryland and Duke. It didn't take long for John Chaney's Owls to drop completely out of the rankings. A loss to the top ranked Blue Devils on December 5th ignited a six game losing streak from which Temple has never really recovered.
When they come to Raleigh, the Owls will bring with them a 6-11 record and a three game losing streak. The rapid fall has been somewhat unexpected from a program that made it to the final eight of the NCAA Tournament less than a year ago.
But....Temple does return four regulars from that team including guard Lynn Greer, who is one of the nation's most prolific scorers.
"I think anybody who has followed college basketball is fully aware of the capabilities of Temple," said NC State head coach Herb Sendek. "There's not a coach in the country that wouldn't tell you that on a given night, Temple can beat anybody and I mean anybody. Their schedule is incredible. You look at who they've played and its easy to see why their record is the way it is. With the kind of personnel that they have and the system they employ, they could win the Atlantic 10 Tournament and get back to the NCAA Tournament."
The 6-2 Greer has been unstoppable at times. Averaging 22.2 points per game, the senior from Philadelphia tallied 47 points against Wisconsin back on Dec. 3.
"He really presents a challenge," Sendek said. "He's one of those guys that you can do a good job covering and he can still make the shot. He has an uncanny ability to create his own shot. You watch tape after tape and a guy can be hanging on him and it's like 'good shot Lynn, get back on defense.' He's special."
In seniors Kevin Lyde and Ron Rollerson, Temple has two massive post players that could really test the Pack's already vulnerable post defense.
And of course, the trademark of Temple basketball is an aggressive match-up zone that contests both passes and shots. It's a zone that is anything but passive and often poses problems for teams that are more accustomed to facing zones that are more packed back inside the three-point arc.
"We've really been preparing hard for this game," Hodge said. "We've been working on our zone offense. We've been taking a lot of jumps shots because we know against a zone we're going to have a good shooting game."
NC State and Temple have met five times, dating back to the 1950-51 season. The Wolfpack has won all five games. But this will be the first meeting since NC State's 74-71 win over the Owls in the 1989-90 campaign.