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NC State’s loss to Wisconsin might help more than its first six wins

NC State’s Keatts: ‘A lot of things to build on’

NC State coach Kevin Keatts talks about the Wolfpack's loss to the Wisconsin Badgers Tuesday, Nov 27, 2018.
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NC State coach Kevin Keatts talks about the Wolfpack's loss to the Wisconsin Badgers Tuesday, Nov 27, 2018.

N.C. State will get more out of Tuesday’s 79-75 loss at Wisconsin than any of its first six wins.

Finding confidence in warmup wins over teams in the outer reaches of the KenPom rankings is one thing, playing with poise in a difficult road environment is another.

N.C. State looked good on the road on Tuesday night. Markell Johnson found the right balance of being aggressive (21 points) and finding his teammates (five assists).

C.J. Bryce, who was the best player on Kevin Keatts’ last UNCW team, looked like his game will translate to the ACC. He scored 18 points and often had an answer when N.C. State needed it.

Rebounding was a major question mark in the preseason. N.C. State isn’t blessed with tremendous size but the Wolfpack outrebounded the Badgers, 36-30. Torin Dorn put in a yeoman’s effort with 14 points and 11 rebounds.

Yes, some of the calls were bad, including the last offensive foul on Johnson with 18 seconds left. It was one of five block/charge calls that went Wisconsin guard Brad Davison’s way.

Wisconsin is one of the toughest places in the country to play for a reason. N.C. State isn’t the first road team to find an unkind whistle at the Kohl Center. It’s best to call Davison’s theatrical version of “defense” for what it is — trash — and move on.

The NCAA should learn from the NBA and legislate those pratfalls out of the game, or at least minimize them. After Davison got his first call in the first half, he was only empowered. If he’s not rewarded, and the “play on” rules are in effect, such foolish embellishment would end serve no purpose.

Regardless, there were many positives for State in a November road loss. The first half looked quite a bit like last year’s surprise win over Arizona.

The defensive lapses in the second half (the Badgers scored 50 points) cost the Wolfpack in the end. But if State takes that show on the road in the ACC, it will be just fine.

On to the “Only* ACC Power Rankings That Matter:”

1. Virginia

Record: 6-0

This week: at Maryland (Wednesday)

The Wahoos won their Thanksgiving tournament, Duke and UNC did not.

2. Duke

Record: 6-1

This week: Indiana (W, 90-69), Stetson (Saturday)

Gonzaga’s the best team in the country. That two-point loss in Maui is not going to break the Blue Devils.

Duke's Mike Krzyzewski talks about the pressure on the young Blue Devil team and how fans need to back off

3. UNC

Record: 6-1

This week: at Michigan (Wednesday)

The Tar Heels have to fix their defense but it’s impossible not to like the cut of Coby White’s jib.

UNC basketball coach Roy Williams talks about the departure of Larry Fedora and the return of Mack Brown to run the Tar Heels' football program during a press conference on Tuesday, Nov. 27, 2018.

4. Florida State

Record: 5-1

This week: Purdue (Wednesday)

The Seminoles definitely have SEC bragging rights with wins over LSU and Florida.

5. Virginia Tech

Record: 5-1

This week: Penn State (L, 63-62), Central Connecticut (Saturday)

The neutral-site win over Purdue keeps the Hokies in front of the Wolfpack, for now.

6. N.C. State

Record: 6-1

This week: Wisconsin (L, 79-75), Vanderbilt (Saturday)

Second Power 5 opponent of the season on deck on Saturday.

NC State's Torin Dorn talks about the Wolfpack's game with the Wisconsin Badgers Tuesday, Nov. 27, 2018.

7. Clemson

Record: 5-2

This week: Nebraska (L, 68-66)

The Cornhuskers are actually pretty good but the Tigers are missing Gabe DeVoe.

8. Miami

Record: 5-1

This week: Rutgers (Wednesday), Yale (Saturday)

The Canes continue their New Jersey theme with the Scarlet Knights after a loss to Seton Hall.

9. Louisville

Record: 4-2

This week: Michigan State (W, 82-78, OT), at Seton Hall (Saturday)

The Cards are in full-on “house money” mode in Chris Mack’s first season. That win over Sparty could turn out to be memorable.

10. Pittsburgh

Record: 6-1

This week: Iowa (L, 69-68)

Speaking of free and easy, the Panthers are making the most of a new lease on life under Jeff Capel.

11. Boston College

Record: 5-1

This week: Minnesota (W, 68-56)

Great response (three solid wins) since the IUPUI loss on Nov. 14.

12. Notre Dame

Record: 6-1

This week: Illinois (W, 76-74)

Recent Chicagoland wins (DePaul, Illinois) might come in handy in March.

13. Syracuse

Record: 3-2

This week: Ohio State (Wednesday), Cornell (Saturday)

The return of Frank Howard should right the ship. Those losses in MSG were both uninspiring.

14. Georgia Tech

Record: 4-1

This week: at Northwestern (Wednesday), St. John’s (Saturday)

Tech’s awful schedule (Rio Grand Valley?) makes N.C. State’s look like a three-week NBA road trip.

15. Wake Forest

Record: 3-2

This week: Western Carolina (W, 71-64), at Richmond (Saturday)

Great holiday gift idea for your favorite Wake fan: A “This _ many days until we hire Ryan Odom” calendar.

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